Last weekend saw round one of the 2020 Betfred Super League season. One of the most eagerly anticipated games in the first round was that of the Toronto Wolfpack against the Castleford Tigers, as Toronto welcomed the most expensive man in world rugby, Sonny Bill Williams.
SBW’s latest code switch marks the fifth major code switch in his career. Across both codes he is arguably one of the most decorated and accomplished stars, boasting World Cups, Premierships and even Olympic medals. Unfortunately, however, he was unable to make a difference on his debut in the Wolfpack’s 28-10 defeat on Sunday.
Fans were eager to see the 34-year-old as he has made headlines around the world for this latest switch, becoming the most expensive player in both the league and union. In the off season, the New Zealander signed a two-year £9m contract, making him the highest played player in both the rugby league and union. Williams’ landmark contract was made possible as he was signed as a ‘marquee player’, a rule created in 2016 in order to attract major talent from the National Rugby League in Australia and the rugby union.
Although the expense at which Williams has been attracted to Super League is unprecedented, he is one of many large signings that have been made in this year. Amongst them is the highly controversial signing of Israel Folau to Catalan Dragons. Folau lost his position in the team for club and country for homophobic remarks made in 2019 and his return to league action comes after other leagues and organisations have distanced themselves from him. Folau will join the Australian superstar James Maloney in France.
This new influx of Southern Hemisphere talent is sure to attract a new set of fans to Super League. However, many fear that smaller teams will be unable to compete.