Sonny Bill stays with league: McClennan - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sonny Bill stays with league: McClennan

31/12/2006 06:58:54 PM Comments (0)

So convinced was New Zealand coach Brian McClennan that Sonny Bill Williams wouldn't switch codes, he didn't even phone the Kiwi young gun in a bid to keep him in rugby league.

Speculation recently reached fever pitch that Australian Rugby Union representatives would discuss a switch with Williams' co-manager Chris Orr in Sydney despite both parties trying to play down the talks.

McClennan said on Sunday Williams had told him there was no truth to the rumours and that he wanted to add to the one league Test he had played under the current Kiwi coach.

But McClennan reckons there's one good reason why Williams will never sign an ARU contract no matter how much money it throws at him - he's a Kiwi "through and through".

"When I heard he was going to switch codes and play for Australia I didn't even bother to ring him - I just knew it wouldn't happen," McClennan told The New Zealand Herald.

"He's a Kiwi through and through - he's potentially one of the greatest league players New Zealand's ever produced.

"If he did go to rugby, which I could never see him doing, he would never play for Australia - he'd rather play for New Zealand."

Co-managers Gavin and Chris Orr have already begun talks with the Bulldogs in a bid to extend Williams' $400,000 a year contract which expires at the end of the 2007 season.

Gavin Orr said the rugby rumours began when Williams' name was on a list presented to the ARU head scout as a player coming off contract in 2007 who was eligible for the Wallabies.

"They rang up and said 'what's the story?'," Orr told the NZ Herald.

But Orr said Williams briefly considered an offer to talk to the New Zealand Rugby Union when his last Bulldogs contract expired, but opted to stay with the Bulldogs.

Williams has also been linked to the Sydney Roosters and he is also expected to be a target of hefty English Super League offers.

McClennan said another lure for Williams to stay in league would be the Kiwi captaincy.

With the likes of Stacey Jones and Ruben Wiki announcing their international retirements following New Zealand's gutsy Tri Nations grand final loss to Australia, former Kiwi coach Graham Lowe has already called on Williams to take up the captaincy reins.

But McClennan just wanted Williams back on the playing field first.

"We just need him playing football, but Sonny would make a good lead-by-example captain," he said.

Williams - who is jokingly called `Chalky' by Bulldogs teammates because he "breaks like a bit of chalk" - has been plagued by injuries and is currently bouncing back from a knee complaint which plagued him for much of the 2006 NRL season and kept him out of New Zealand's Tri-Nations campaign.

Williams will soon return to full training.

Meanwhile, McClennan has been appointed director of coaching by the Auckland Lions which will play in next year's NSW Premier League.

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