Williams plays match for Toulon breaching Aussie court ord

Former Canterbury rugby league star Sonny Bill Williams made his debut for Toulon in a friendly match against Carqueiranne-Hyeres on Friday in defiance of a court injunction.


The 23-year-old back row from New Zealand came on as a winger before switching to centre though he had not warmed up with the rest of the squad.


Earlier Friday, a New South Wales Supreme Court ruled that Williams had been in breach of contract after the 23-year-old walked out of a five-year deal with Australian side Canterbury Bulldogs without warning.


The player is now in contempt of court.


The National Rugby League (NRL) has asked European rugby authorities, as well as the Australian justice system, to force Williams to go back.


There are potential jurisdictional difficulties in getting Williams to return but the Bulldogs and NRL have insisted the player can be successfully sued for damages in Australia for breaching the order.


“My conclusion is that the making of an interlocutory interim injunction will not be futile,” the judge said at the hearing, at which Williams was not represented.


The court heard that the player had been served with New South Wales court documents earlier this week after they were thrown over a fence as he trained with Toulon.


However Williams went ahead with his Toulon debut. Toulon coach Tana Umaga expects to play him as a centre.


During the match, Williams showed his ability in several moves, before getting a yellow card as his agent Khoder Nasser and friend Anthony Mundine, an Australian boxer, looked on.


The player himself did not make any comment having been “protected” from the media, according to Toulon club president Mourad Boudjellal.


“Sonny Bill’s attitude is honest,” Boudjellal said.


“He has decided to stop playing rugby league and start playing the 15-a-side game to realise a new dream, of playing for the All Blacks and learning about rugby union with Tana Umaga.


“He does not want to and is no longer capable of playing in the 13-a-side game. He is under contract for another three years with the Canterbury Bulldogs without a performance clause, meaning the club have to pay him regardless of his level of play.


“But he has decided not to take money from a club for which he does not want to play for and to give the best of himself.


“The Bulldogs’ problem is not that a play has a contract with another club, but that they have a contract with a player who is not capable of honouring it psychologically. A rugby player is not merchandise.


“I would only recognise a French court and I only take my orders from the International Rugby Board and the French Rugby Federation.”

 

Boudjellal added he had “lodged Williams’ contract with the national league” and that no exit letter had been asked for.

He continued: “If there is no request for an exit letter, there is no recognition of a former contract,” adding that to his knowledge, neither the club nor the player had received notice of the court injunction.


Sapa-AFP – Top14Rugby.com

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