Chiming Into The Backline
Thursday 13 December 2012 4:51 PM
Life-long Sydney Roosters fan Alan Katzmann has joined the Roosters.com.au team for the 2013 season and will contribute regular opinion pieces on subjects of interest to our supporters, and league followers in general.
A 12-year Member and Eastern Suburbs local, Alan is one of the tricolours most passionate followers and a proud member of the recently established Jack Gibson Club.
Welcome Back Sonny Bill
On February 1, 2013, the Sydney Roosters will officially unveil its major offseason signing, Sonny Bill Williams, and in doing the NRL will see the return to the game of one of the most accomplished sportsmen and recognisable figures to have ever played our game.
However, there have been some commentators who have questioned the value of the Roosters signing the former Bulldog, and as a result there may even be some Rooster supporters who may have been swayed by some of these arguments, or may have raised similar concerns themselves.
Firstly, I’m not sure that all commentators on our game always have the best interests of the Roosters as their priority, so let’s not put too much emphasis on those from outside our club that do not think it is such a good move for the Roosters. You might want to ask yourself what their reaction might have been had he been signed by Souths or St George/Illawarra, who seem to enjoy a different level of media favourability with many of those individuals, to that afforded to the Roosters.
Sonny Bill is one of the most in-demand players of either rugby code but he has chosen our club as his new home. It is a great coup for the Roosters and a great boost for our finals prospects for the coming season. Every other club in the NRL would love to have Sonny Bill in their squad, but only one club will have that privilege.
Yes, he has signed just a one year contract, but why should that automatically mean that he will be here for just one season. Has he ever said he’ll be here for just one year? One of our tasks as supporters should be to make him so welcome that he never wants to leave. Certainly when I became a supporter back in 1966 I made only a one year commitment, but after just signing on for my 48th season recently (now referred to as club membership) I’m as committed as ever to the Roosters.
Over the past two seasons we have won just 37.5% of our matches, a fact we can not gloss over. As a result, we must be proactive in trying to once again become a premiership force. Elite players will contribute significantly to this, and in Sonny Bill we have undoubtedly one of the best. In fact our Board would have been derelict in their duty had they been aware of Sonny Bill’s willingness to return to the NRL and not done all they could to add him to our playing roster. He returns to the NRL as a very mature 27 year old at the peak of his powers. He has already, despite officially not commencing with us till February, displayed an exceptional level of dedication and professionalism with his presence at so many of our pre-season training sessions, where he has attempted to learn all he can about our squad and the type of football we will be playing in 2013. Further, he has taken back with him to Japan numerous DVD’s to assist him in his preparation for the 2013 season. These are not the actions of a mercenary or a player who is not going to make a massive contribution to the Roosters in 2013 (and hopefully beyond). Hopefully this aspect of Sonny Bill’s character will become far more familiar to a wider number of people inside and outside of the game, as he continues to build on the positive impact he is already having on our club (despite not officially joining us till February next year).
Of course, this level of professionalism has the potential to rub off on all those players within our club who seek to maximise their potential in the game. By seeing Sonny Bill’s preparation first hand they can work on those areas of their game that they need to improve on if they too wish to become an elite sportsman. We have already heard reports from his future teammates on the benefits of having him around (and their excitement at the prospect of playing beside him), and that’s before he has even commenced training with the club. This level of excitement will only increase as the season approaches, which is totally understandable. It is not every day that a player of Sonny Bill Williams’ status joins our player ranks and these teammates know that for whatever period they are fortunate enough to be playing with him, that they are going to be major beneficiaries, and just as fortunately – so are the Rooster fans.
As a player there are few within our game that can be so influential in both attack and defence. How many three quarters within our game lament the fact that they play outside a second row forward that is either inept at setting up his outside backs or just constantly dies with the ball? The modern day second row forward is an old style inside centre, and if you yearn to see outside backs in space on more than an occasional basis, you are going to love the opportunities Sonny Bill is going to provide the outside backs of the Sydney Roosters. Just as importantly when we are in the opposition quarter we will have a devastating attacking option that can draw numerous defenders towards him, opening up spaces on the edges for the Roosters to exploit.
Anybody who suggests that the Roosters will not be far more competitive (and therefore win more games) as a result of the Sonny Bill Williams signing are only kidding themselves. As fans we want our club to prudently manage its finances so that we can always be viable and competitive, but we also want the club to grow by attracting new supporters. Nothing grows support bases faster than winning teams and players that kids idolise. Twelve premierships are nice but not nearly enough – we must insist that our club does all it can to work toward adding further premiership titles. The signing of Sonny Bill Williams is the surest sign yet that our club’s board is as anxious as we are to see a return to finals football, and hopefully by extension, a thirteenth premiership in the not too distant future.
Sonny Bill Williams will be second to none in the game in attracting patrons to live matches. When the attendance figure is posted for our Round One SFS clash with Souths, Sonny Bill’s presence in our line-up will be a key reason why we significantly exceed the 27, 803 we got there in Round One of 2011, even though that was our first match after a Grand Final appearance. The Warriors have moved their Round Two clash against the Roosters from the 30,000 capacity Mt Smart Stadium to the 50,000 seat capacity Eden Park. I can assure you that this is not being done to accommodate the extra spectators wanting to watch the possible home game Warriors debut of Dominic Peyroux.
Sonny Bill is a player that sponsors want to be associated with as his recognition as a sportsman spreads further afield than any other player in the NRL. That brings enormous benefits to the game and to the Roosters.
Rugby league fans should all celebrate the fact that he will soon be back in our game, and as Roosters supporters we should be salivating at the prospect of seeing him run out in our famous jersey, with many hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world watching. I, for one, can’t wait.
NB: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Roosters.com.au, the Sydney Roosters and its board of Directors or staff.