Sonny Bill Williams has announced his retirement from professional rugby, with the dual-code New Zealand international also suggesting he may return to boxing
The centre and second-row forward, who won World Cups with New Zealand in 2011 and 2015 and was in the Kiwis team who reached the 2013 Rugby League World Cup final at Old Trafford, made the announcement on Twitter.
“A massive thank you to the public and fans for all the support over years,” Williams tweeted on Thursday.”
“To my many team-mates, thanks for the lessons and help along the way. It wasn’t a perfect journey, but the lessons have helped shape me into the man I’m proud to be off the field today.”
The 35-year-old appears set to focus on a return to boxing, having won all seven of his professional heavyweight boxing bouts between 2009 and 2015. “I’m keen to get back into the ring, I’ve got a couple of years,” he told the Nine Network.
This comes after leading head injury and concussions expert Dr Willie Stewart has said that the new head injury substitute rules in football are a “shambles”. Football’s lawmakers approved a trial for the new head injury measures in December, which has now been adopted in the Premier League, as well as the FA Cup.
Williams has also been offered a mentoring role by the Sydney Roosters, who tweeted: “Congratulations on your magnificent playing career @SonnyBWilliams. We are right behind you for the next chapter!”
Williams’ last appearance was for Roosters last October as part of a short-term stint following Toronto Wolfpack’s withdrawal from their first Super League season. He was still under contract with Toronto for 2021 but was left without a club when the Canadian outfit were refused re-entry into English rugby league’s top tier. It marked a low-key finale to one of the greatest careers of the modern era in either code of rugby.
Only 33 men have represented New Zealand in both codes, Williams won 58 caps for the All Blacks and a Super Rugby title with the Chiefs in 2012, and also represented New Zealand during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In rugby league, he won two NRL premierships with the Roosters (2013) and Canterbury Bulldogs (2004).
Williams was seen as a major capture for Toronto, who are thought to have splashed out around £5m ($9m) to tempt him back to the 13-man game in November 2019.
However, he made just five appearances in Super League, all of them on UK soil, before Toronto pulled the plug, leaving him and the rest of the squad with months of unpaid wages.
This comes after Large numbers of Rangers supporters flouted the nationwide COVID-19 rules to gather at Ibrox Stadium, as well as at George Square on Sunday after the club had won the Scottish Premiership title. John Swinney said that the scenes were “an absolute disgrace” and that they undermined the recent progress that had been made against the coronavirus.
Last year, the former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said Williams was the best athlete he had ever coached. “The offload king. Thank you for all you’ve given to New Zealand rugby and fans all around the world.
Enjoy retirement uso [brother],” read a tweet from the national team’s account.
Off the field, Williams is a devout Muslim and outspoken human rights advocate, tweeting his support for the minority Uighur ethnic group in China and working with Amnesty International to raise awareness of immigration issues in Australia.