Australia give up the chase on Sonny Bill Williams

Australian rugby league authorities Saturday conceded defeat in their bid to prevent the defection of the game’s best player to French rugby union club Toulon.

Sonny Bill Williams, the Sydney Bulldogs star and New Zealand international, fled Australia for France three weeks ago despite having 4 years remaining on his contract and 7 games left in the season.

The 23-year-old glamour boy didn’t give notice to his club, tell his teammates or inform the National Rugby League that administers the game.

Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg told national broadcaster ABC that the club had agreed to accept around 750,000 Australia dollars (563,000 US dollars) from Toulon to cancel Williams’ contract.

The Bulldogs had sought 2 million Australian dollars, citing the damage that the runaway centre had caused.

“It’s affected our recruitment, it’s affected our players currently, it’s affected our sponsorship and it will affect our attendances,” Greenberg said.

Williams is the third player in two months to forsake Australia for a rugby union contract in France. The game’s other big star, St George Illawara captain Mark Gasnier, walked out on his Sydney club.

More are rumoured to be negotiating with French clubs.

The defection of league stars for rugby union is a reversal of what happened a decade ago when league poached top players from rugby union.

Sapa-dpa –

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