Sonny Bill Williams: Toronto keen to add further megastar signings to Super League squad

By Dave WoodsBBC rugby league correspondent
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams was a key figure at the Roosters in 2013, a line-busting, offloading back-row machine

The signing of Sonny Bill Williams could be just the first in a series of big name captures by the ambitious Toronto Wolfpack.

Both codes of rugby have been rocked by the news that the game's highest profile star looks set to join the Canadian club in time for the 2020 Super League season.

The two-time union World Cup winner and 58-cap All Black also won two National Rugby League premierships in league with Canterbury and Sydney Roosters, he is a genuine superstar in whatever format.

It is a deal which is believed to be worth £5m over two years, of which just £150,000 per season will count on the salary cap under the 'marquee player' rule.

Wigan utilised the same system when re-signing Sam Tomkins from New Zealand Warriors, while Warrington have brought in England international Gareth Widdop from St George Illawarra.

But the Wolfpack may not have finished there. They have also been linked to a number of other high profile names from the 15-a-side code and American football's National Football League, in what would be a reversal of trends to a large extent.

They are only three years into their existence but have won two promotions, climbing from League One into the top flight and have steadily built and rebuilt their squad.

Toronto do not draw central funding from the Super League, and had to prove their financial viability to be admitted into the elite division after their 'Million Pound Game' final win over Featherstone last month.

They came close to signing former State of Origin and Samoa International Ben Te'o, who has recently been involved in the England rugby union squad, before the 'Sonny Bill' deal, and he may still be a target.

Other stars also remain on their wishlist - including, I understand, England rugby union international centre Manu Tuilagi. The Samoa-born Leicester Tigers player was also a part of England's recent World Cup campaign.

Not since the pre-professionalism era has rugby union talent been sought on such a level by a rugby league club.

Valentine Holmes
Valentine Holmes was the top try scorer with 12 as Australia won the 2017 Rugby League World Cup

The NFL offers other potential signings; former rugby union star Christian Wade and ex-Australian Kangaroos league international Valentine Holmes are currently pushing for playing spots in the league and could be a focus for interest.

Both have been kept on at their respective clubs under the International Player Pathway, despite not making the roster.

Wade was a prolific try scorer renowned for his pace with Wasps and also played for England, while Holmes had a remarkable scoring record for club, state and country during his league career, finishing as top try-scorer at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Previously, stars such as Tonga back-rower powerhouse Jason Taumalolo have flirted with the idea of switching to gridiron, while former Australia and Parramatta full-back Jarryd Hayne gave it a go before returning to league.

Holmes has been linked with the NRL in his native country, but with the sums being talked of in tying down 'Sonny Bill', the Wolfpack would be in the ballpark to compete with the Australian clubs' spending power.

Meanwhile, the Wolfpack are on the agenda for a meeting of Super League clubs in England later this week.

They want more support from the British game to help promote the sport in North America. not to mention a clearer understanding of how the game can be grown under the current structure.

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC