November 7, 2019, is when it was officially confirmed; Sonny Bill Williams will join Toronto Wolfpack in the Betfred Super League.
The Super League CEO said this was the biggest moment in Super League history. Many people are comparing this signing to David Beckham in Major League Soccer (MLS). However, to Toronto sports fans, this moment seems similar to the Bloody Big Deal.
The ‘Bloody Big Deal’ was a marketing campaign done by the Toronto Football Club (TFC) of MLS in 2014. This campaign was where British people would react in shock as former Tottenham Hotspur player Jermaine Defoe signed with TFC.
There were two players involved in the Bloody Big Deal including Defoe and Michael Bradley. However, Defoe was by far the most marketed player in TFC history, with the Bloody Big deal advertising and promotion.
— Tyler 🥊🥋💪 (@Tyler_SuperBoy) January 14, 2014
The Bloody Big Deal
TFC did not make a lot of progress in their first eight years at MLS. They won many Canadian Championships but many of them were won when the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club were still in the second division of the American soccer pyramid.
Other accomplishments included almost making it to their first-ever playoff appearance in 2009 and their famous two-legged victory against MLS defending champs LA Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The LA Galaxy were defending MLS Cup Champs, who had David Beckham and Landon Donovan on their squad. Then Tim Leiweke came and changed how TFC was viewed to the public eye.
This included creating a Bloody Big Deal in 2014. Many Toronto sports fans did not know at the time, but this marked a turning point in TFC’s history. They would spend lots of money in order to be competitive in MLS and won trophies like the MLS Cup in 2017. This happened despite Jermain Defoe signing not working.
Jermaine Defoe left after only a year. However, TFC traded him for Jozy Altidore, and got Italian player Sebastian Giovinco from the famous soccer club Juventus. Both Altidore and Giovinco played a huge part on TFC’s success; which led them to their 2017 MLS Cup win.
This money spent on players is also what the Wolfpack is doing, and maybe within five years, they can hold silverware just like TFC did. The influence that Sonny Bill Williams will have on Super League though will be far greater than what Jermaine Defoe did for MLS.
It reminds me a bit of when Julio Cesar, then starting Brazilian goalkeeper of Brazil came to TFC.
— Toronto Wolfpack (@TOwolfpack) November 7, 2019
Sonny Bill Williams
Signing Sonny Bill Williams is a big deal in Canada. He is a transformational figure in both codes of rugby. He is also the most expensive player in the rugby world earning $5 million per year.
Sonny Bill has many accolades added to his rugby-resume. This includes being two-time champions with the famous New Zealand rugby union team nicknamed the ‘All Blacks’. He only recently competed in his third Rugby World Cup, and importantly for League fans, he is a two-time NRL Premiership winner.
It shows that the Wolfpack are serious about not just competing in Super League and the Challenge Cup, The Wolfpack organization’s mentality is to try to win both respective competitions.
This is not to say that the Wolfpack will win Super League and/or the Challenge Cup the next two years. However, it sets the mindset of the Wolfpack management and staff. But in truth, they are in Super League and the Challenge Cup to win trophies. And SBW can make a contribution towards that objective.
SBW formula – sign big name Star players
Sonny Bill Williams also expects to win championships. Brian McDermott describes what Williams wants to do in Toronto:
“He’s coming to win trophies.”
Now, this signing is riskier for the Wolfpack then for TFC with Defoe, as Williams is getting a minority share in the company in addition to being paid handsomely by the Toronto Wolfpack. Even so, the Wolfpack have already made plans to sign other high-calibre players.
According to 1newsnow, the Toronto Wolfpack are targeting Manu Tuilagi of the English rugby union team.
This source comes from the Daily Telegraph who also says that Kiwi-born English centre Ben Te’o is on the Wolfpack shortlist. There are also other players they are after. According to The Sun, the Wolfpack are after two more players.
These players are Fiji star Semi Radradra, and even current Buffalo Bills player Christian Wade. There are also rampant rumours from League Express that Leeds prop Brad Singleton will sign with Leeds with the Wolfpack for next season.
Sonny Bill Williams is very similar to the Bloody Big Deal, and the Jermain Defoe signing. They both represent a turning point in a franchise league. It also shows people that the Wolfpack have high aspirations to win both Super League and the Challenge Cup; to add to their proud but short history.
News of his signing is very big news – least we say it, Bloody Big News. And Sonny Bill Williams coming to the Betfred Super League has excited not just Toronto, but every fan of Super League across the globe.
Sonny Bill Williams signing is a Bloody Big Deal
Sonny Bill Williams is not just catching the attention of the Wolfpack but all of Super League. It is just like Julio Cesar coming to TFC in 2014 as the starting goalkeeper of the Brazil men’s national soccer team. The year the Bloody Big Deal happened.
Julio Cesar could have been bigger if Brazil won the FIFA World Cup in 2014 as TFC goalkeeper. However, Cesar lost 7-1 to Germany in the FIFA World Cup semifinals and would finish fourth in the FIFA World Cup. He left TFC after the unsuccessful World Cup and never returned to MLS.
For mine, Sonny Bill Williams will have a bigger impact than Julio Cesar though. Super League CEO Robert Elstone explains. “Fundamentally, for me as a fan I remember as a young kid waiting to see Wally Lewis’ debut at Wakefield and I had to be there.
“I was in Sydney when Ellery Hanley made his debut for Western Suburbs, and I had to be there. Big-name players, who made a big impact on their team.
“Sonny Bill will have exactly that impact for rugby league fans, they will want to be there and be in big numbers. That is a very powerful thing.”
This quote comes from the Betred Super League commissioner and shows the impact Sonny Bill is making to the competition. Some are calling it the biggest signing in Super League history. Brian Noble told media, “In my mind unquestionably it’s the biggest signing in Super League history.”
November 7, 2019
1pm ET pic.twitter.com/9wqfvAufkK
— Toronto Wolfpack (@TOwolfpack) November 8, 2019
Terry O’Connor, a rugby league expert and columnist for Sky Sports explained why:
“I was speaking to someone in the gym only yesterday who said he’s not watched Widnes for years, but if Sonny Bill Williams was to sign for the Wolfpack, he would be travelling over to Headingley to watch him play.”
That is a huge statement by a Sky Sports Rugby League correspondent. It shows that the player has changed the game in the northern hemisphere of rugby league.
The difference is that Julio Cesar was only with TFC for half a season. Sonny Bill Williams has signed a two-year contract with the Wolfpack plus has a minority stake in the organization.
Wolfpack fans are likely to see Sonny Bill Williams in Toronto for a long time, even after he retires. The legacy Sonny Bill Williams potentially could do for Super League and the Wolfpack are beyond anyone’s imagination.
When/Where will SBW make his Wolfpack debut?
England will be able to see Sonny Bill Williams when the Wolfpack play their first-ever Betfred Super League game against the Castleford Tigers at Emerald Headingley Stadium in Leeds.
France can then see Sonny Bill Williams play on April 11 in Perpignan at Stade Gilbert Brutus. There the Catalan Dragons face the Toronto Wolfpack, and the SBW factor could have an impact on attendance and conversely, in Super League awareness in Europe.
Most importantly for North American fans, Sonny Bill Williams will most likely make his home debut in Canada on April 18. This is when the home team faces Hull FC, at Lamport Stadium in Toronto.
Leading into next year, and the start of the 2020 Betfred Super League season, according to Sportsnet a press conference will take place at London’s Emirates Stadium (home to Arsenal, famous England soccer team) on November 14. There Sonny Bill Williams will be introduced to the public. UK media, and quite rightly become a ‘bloody big deal’ with UK rugby league fans too.
“Main photo credit”