'Bigger than Beckham': Sonny Bill Williams has just inked a $10 million deal, among the biggest in rugby history

Sonny Bill Williams has just become one of the highest paid rugby stars in the game’s history (Photo by Richard Heathcote World Rugby, World Rugby via Getty Images)
  • Just weeks after the New Zealand All Blacks were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup, dual international Sonny Bill Williams will return to rugby league.
  • Williams has signed a two-year contract worth an estimated $10 million with the Toronto Wolfpack, marking possibly the biggest signing in Super League history.
  • In doing so, Australian owner and mining magnate David Argyle has compared Williams to David Beckham and LeBron James.

Soccer players might aspire to bend it like Beckham, but it could be Sonny Bill Williams’ success they try to emulate.

The two-code superstar will return to rugby league to play for the Toronto Wolfpack after signing a two-year contract worth an estimated $10 million – a figure that would make it the richest in the sport’s history. It’s one the club has been cooing about since beginning their pursuit earlier this year.

“Sonny is a phenomenal athlete. He is rugby’s LeBron James and we see his recruitment as bigger than when David Beckham joined LA Galaxy. He is box office and puts bums on seats,” Toronto owner, and Australian mining magnate David Argyle told Fox Sports back in February.

Nine months later, the club finally confirmed that it, and Argyle’s chequebook, had sealed Williams’ signature, and his reputation as one of the game’s most successful players.

The deal is believed to include equity in the club and there have even been suggestions Williams could take a starring role in a new Netflix documentary series, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The club has big ambitions and big goals. I want to be part of all this and do all I can to help reach those lofty goals,” Williams said.

“On the field, I’d like to bring high-quality play and do all I can for the betterment of the team. Off the field, I’d like to use my experience to mentor the young players and be helpful where I am needed.”

While the comparisons to Beckham and LeBron are grandiose, they reflect William’s electrifying career.

His signing all but guarantees the sporting superstar will finish his career playing rugby league. He had spent the last five years playing for the New Zealand All Blacks, lifting the Rugby World Cup twice for them, as well as Super League seasons with the Crusaders, the Chiefs and the Blues most recently.

In rugby league, he debuted at the age of 19 with the Cantebury Bulldogs. After just five first-grade games with the club, he made his debut as the youngest player ever to represent New Zealand’s national side. That same year, he’d go on to win the NRL premiership. He’d leave controversially mid-contract to earn big bucks with French club Toulon.

Earning an estimated $10 million, and approaching the end of his career, it’s unlikely Williams will repeat that trick again.

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