Toronto Wolfpack have signed cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams in a multimillion pound deal that will see him become the most expensive player in rugby union and rugby league history.
The New Zealand superstar will return to rugby league as Toronto’s marquee signing after finishing third with the All Blacks in this year’s World Cup.
Williams’ record breaking move to the Super League newcomers is worth an estimated $10million (£5million) over the two years he has agreed to sign for; a staggering amount that is far more than most other Super League sides would spend on an entire squad.
“Is the decision good for the game of rugby league? Boy, oh boy what a signing.” said Toronto Wolfpack director of rugby Brian Noble.
The 34-year-old forward has won two World Cups in rugby union with New Zealand, making him one of just 21 players to win multiple World Cup titles.
Noble has also spoken about the Super League salary cap and believes lifting it will help attract more high profile players. "It's time to have the debate and be positive and proactive about expansion with all the right regulatory rules that should be in there,” Noble told BBC Sport.
“Sonny Bill Williams, if his name is on that piece of paper, is part and parcel and forefront of our view of making decisions that are good for the game and not just Toronto.”
Williams has represented Canterbury Bulldogs (2004-08) and Sydney Roosters (2013-14) in rugby league and won the National Rugby League (NRL) title with both sides.
In 2013 he was named Rugby League International Federation player of the year during his spell with the Roosters.
The Toronto Wolfpack secured promotion to top flight rugby in 2019, just three years after the side was formed. A victory over the Featherstone Rovers in the Million Pound Game last month saw them rise to the top tier for the first time.
The three-year-old team will join the Super League as outsiders, with Catalans Dragons the only other side to hail from outside of the UK. The introduction of more foreign sides is in the competition’s strive for innovation.
“We want the game to have front-page headlines,” continued Noble. “We want the game to have an energy and excitement so that everyone else knows what our great game is about.”
The Canadian side have established a following of about 9,000 home city fans in the three years they have been competing. The arrival of rugby icon Williams will help push the Wolfpack even further into the limelight.
“The rest of Super League will be punching the air at his arrival,” said BBC’s Dave Woods. “Having a Sonny Bill Williams in the opposition line-up whenever Toronto Wolfpack come to town will undoubtedly put extra numbers on the gate.”
Toronto Wolfpack will start their first ever Super League campaign on February 2.
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