OPINION

Sonny Bill's return to the NRL is great for the game

Sonny Bill Williams playing for Toronto Wolfpack during the Betfred Super League in February, 2020. Photo: George Wood/Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams playing for Toronto Wolfpack during the Betfred Super League in February, 2020. Photo: George Wood/Getty Images

Anyone who thinks Sonny Bill Williams is going to walk back into this Sydney Roosters side at the back end of the season and set the world on fire on the field is kidding themselves. It won't happen.

The guy is 35 and has played five games of rugby league in the past six years. Those five matches were earlier this year for the Toronto Wolfpack in the English Super League and he hasn't played since March 5.

But do I think it's a good thing for the NRL and for the Roosters that he is coming back? You betcha - I think it's terrific.

Sonny Bill is a big star. He's a massive drawcard and people like him create huge interest in our game. He'll be a real talking point and people will want to watch him play, it's really that simple.

The big names attract the attention and even at 35 and obviously past his best, Sonny Bill is still a real big name.

I know people are questioning how he has been allowed to come back when he is still contracted to the Wolfpack, and the move back to the Roosters was always going to be controversial.

But I don't have a problem with it at all and I applaud the head of the ARL Commission Peter V'landys for having the flexibility to be able to remove any of the roadblocks that may have been in the way of making it happen.

Like I alluded to, Sonny Bill still faces a huge challenge just to get up to speed with the game and make the Roosters squad, depleted with injuries as it is. He's going to play the last four games and whatever finals matches the side are involved in but it's not going to be a walk in the park for him.

I'd imagine he'll be eased into it by Roosters coach Trent Robinson with maybe stints of somewhere between 15-30 minutes initially and build it up from there. But I don't think anyone should expect him to be the dominating force he was when he was last here playing.

The game has changed - it's much quicker than it was - but Sonny Bill is a true professional, there is no doubt about that and just his presence around the Roosters squad is going to be massive for the defending premiers.

They are chasing a remarkable hat-trick of titles and who knows, Sonny Bill may just be the missing ingredient that gets them over the line.

Suaalii debate

The other big talking point this week has been the debate around young superstar Joseph Suaalii and whether he should be allowed to play in the NRL at just 17.

I was only 17 when I debuted for the Canberra Raiders. Interestingly, the coach who brought me into the top grade back then was Wayne Bennett and I've got no doubts he was spot on this week when he said his experience in the game makes him the best coach to look after young Suaalii's interests.

From my experience, I think the thing that set me up for my early taste of the big time was the fact I played against men back in Junee in first grade when I was 16 the year before. And we're talking about opposition guys back then who wanted to take my head off and didn't care too much about my age.

So I was playing against men and even when I first moved to the Raiders, I was playing Under 23's before Wayne brought me into the top grade so it was against guys six years older than me.

Young Suaalii won't have that experience under his belt but like I said, Wayne will look after him. He is obviously a massive talent and we want all the best kids playing our game.

Round 12 predictions

DRAGONS v RABBITOHS

I'm tipping an upset here and going for the Dragons on the strength of what I consider to be their superior forward pack and the move of a confident Ben Hunt back to halfback.

TIGERS v WARRIORS

The Warriors showed a bit against the Roosters but I reckon the Tigers will just be too strong for them with Harry Grant again opening the door out of dummy half for Benji to strut his stuff.

BRONCOS v SHARKS

Call me mad but I reckon the Broncos at home with a stronger looking forward pack on paper then they have put out for a while and Darius Boyd back at fullback can upset the Sharks in this one.

ROOSTERS v TITANS

The premiers have been a touch on the flat side but after a rev-up this week from Trent Robinson, they may just take it out on the Titans here.

COWBOYS v RAIDERS

This won't be a walk in the park for the Raiders up in Townsville, particularly if it's a bit hot and humid up there. But I still expect the likes of Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii to lead the Green Machine to another win with the return of John Bateman a real positive.

SEA EAGLES v PENRITH

I'm going against the grain in this one as well and tipping Manly at home. I just think Des Hasler will have his side really primed at home against a quality Penrith side who are leading the comp for a reason. That reason is the influence of Nathan Cleary but if the Eagles can nullify him, they might just get home.

BULLDOGS v EELS

The Eels will just have too much strike for the Dogs with the likes of Clint Gutherson, Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown leading the way.

STORM v KNIGHTS

I can see the Knights really responding to last weekend's surprise loss to the Dogs here but I'm still expecting the Storm to be too clinical for them.

This story Why Sonny Bill won't set the world on fire first appeared on The Canberra Times.