A Portrait of a Simple Minded Coward

Filed in Other by on December 9, 2010

Sonny Bill Williams was once the toast of rugby league, a bright star traveling on a trajectory so steep that greatness seemed assured and the possibilities of achievement limitless. A prodigious talent with a hulking physique and seemingly inexhaustible skill, he was seen as an asset that would not only win matches but sell tickets. He was a rare commodity, a pink diamond that only needed the deft touch of a cutter, a raw talent that only required the shaving of the rough edges. Williams had speed and strength and an ability to create moments of eye-rubbing magic. His own personal failings- his penchant for injury, his simpleton nature, his struggle for consistency, his poor decision making, his failure to work hard- were all attributed to the immaturity of youth. Time was his friend. Maturity would see potential materialise into achievement.

They were hopeful times, the Jazz Age for fans of Canterbury-Bankstown rugby league, when hope was a ware in high supply and we all not only dreamt of the possibility of glory but truly believed it was our destiny. We danced long into the night, cocktails and optimism filling our bellies. The long deserved ninth premiership* had arrived and we still had our hand full of aces, cards that would be played many times over the next decade.

Those were the years before 2005, however, when the clouds seemed lined with silver and the question of glory, both personal and for the Bulldogs, was not if but when.  Those wistful summer days are long gone now though.

The descent for Williams began in the pre-season after premiership glory and really reached what many would call a sharp decline in March of this year, when the lure of the cult proved too desirable. He went over the edge, jumping the shark, when he put into operation a plan to leave Australia, abandoning the Bulldogs and rugby league in the process.

There is little doubt that Williams is totally beholden to Khoder Nasser and Anthony Mundine. The stable has cult-like qualities and even the simplest analysis of cult followers exemplify that Williams is the archetypical recruit. He is what most medical experts would call mentally retarded, he is lazy, he is prone to bouts of delusion, he is easily impressionable and he has an over-inflated sense of his own self worth. Joining Nasser and Mundine, two questionable characters but two shrewd operators nevertheless, Williams has managed to justify his insatiable greed through their perverted victimisation mentality and anarcho-individualism world view, an outlook that views structure as a restrictive form of control and rejects any system that inhibits the individual. This has obviously been considerably simplified for Williams’ consumption but regardless, it has been used to validate his withdrawal from the NRL system.

The problem for Williams is that he does not understand the system he has withdrawn from, nor does he understand the reasons he withdrew from same. This was somewhat evident on last week’s Footy Show. Williams ranted incoherently, constantly contradicting himself and his position while attacking, without provocation, upstanding members of the rugby league community. It was quite apparent that he was trotting out the old Mundine diatribe. The only difference was that Mundine is a renowned orator who understands his own (perverted) world view. Williams, by contrast, exhibited not a smidgeon of genuine belief or understanding in his strange rant that was as circular as it was unbelievable. This, in spite of the fact the interview was nothing more than an inside job designed to cast Williams in a favourable light from a “journalist” so enamored by Williams that an act of on-air fellatio would not have surprised. It was like watching Willie Mason explaining the importance Solzhenitsyn. There is a certain emptiness in the eyes, quivering in the voice and manufactured aggression in demeanour that only too easily tells the tale of a liar, a fool and a coward who is trying, in oh so much vain, to pull the wool over our collective eyes.

Williams views both Nasser and Mundine as his friends. It is doubtful that Nasser and Mundine view Williams as anything more than a prize calf to be paraded until his usefulness expires. He is a vessel to fame and riches, to be used for personal financial ends until the river runs dry. They see the short-term value in him and are prepared to indoctrinate him for a quick payoff. They have nothing to lose. They are both already widely despised and both seem indifferent to the fact.

It has become quite apparent that Williams views himself as a Jackie Robinson like character, though it is doubtful Williams has any idea who Robinson is or the cause he fought for.  Robinson conducted himself with dignity and grace and let deeds rather than words make the point that black athletes had been treated, unfairly, with unabashed bigotry in professional sports . He was a warrior with a cause and history regards him as one of the great athletes and one of the great winners. On the diamond, Robinson was strong and fair and brilliant. Off it, he carried himself with a quiet distinction, refusing to be caught out by the inequitably high standards he was held too. Robinson never allowed himself to fall prey to vice or greed. Robinson was never caught in the act of public copulation with a fellow high-profile athlete, nor did Robinson make a habit of public displays of drunkenness and lewdness. Robinson never acted with the slimy pettiness and personal greed that Williams does. He realised that the war was won through the upholding of personal standards and not public whining or debauchery.

Williams has cast himself in the role of a racial hero, either believing or attempting to convince himself that what he is doing is not spineless but “ballsy”. Williams refuses to accept the label of coward despite the fact his behaviour in recent weeks virtually defines the word. Cowards run, they don’t stay and fight. Cowards abandon their mates in a time of need. Cowards sell out for reasons of personal greed and ego. Cowards take the low road, the easy option. Formulating a plan to desert your club by secretly fleeing overseas is not “ballsy”. It is cowardice of the highest order.

It is quite clear that Williams has little understanding of the cause he pertains to be fighting for. He claimed his desertion was not about personal gain but an act designed to emancipate rugby league players, particularly those of islander descent. He stated that he did it for the players refusing to accept the actual truth: that he did it for money because the almighty dollar is his god.

Williams clearly fails to realise that the game would not survive and nobody would be paid if wages weren’t capped. Williams fails to comprehend that even if the salary cap was abolished, most players would not receive a higher wage, Williams included. Most tellingly, Williams believes that players, particularly those of islander descent, are treated poorly by the game. Williams labeled Bulldogs mentor Steve Folkes a racist, his smoking gun being that Ben Roberts was vilified during video sessions while Andrew Ryan was not. Even the most unlearned of rugby league fans could explain to Williams that Ryan is an ornament to the sport and the club, a player who never gives up and rarely makes an error, while Roberts is prone to wild bouts of stupidity, gutlessness and ineptitude.

Williams playing of the race card merely highlighted what a simpleton he is. It was just another wild, unsubstantiated allegation among a litany of unproved accusations. Rugby league is one of the most egalitarian institutions in Australian society. Rugby league provides an opportunity to all, regardless of race. Many clubs, including the Bulldogs, have more players of aboriginal and islander descent than they do of Anglo-Saxon heritage. A significant portion of the highest paid players in the NRL are of islander or aboriginal heritage. Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Willie Mason, Roy Asotasi and Petero Civoniceva would all be among the top twelve highest-paid players in rugby league. If anything, a form of reverse-racism exists in rugby league these days. The likes of Alan Tongue, David Stagg and Ben Creagh, solid yet dour white players who are renowned for being great team men yet characterised as lacking flair, are all paid an amount under their true value. This is a legacy of the entertainment era, where clubs pay not only for on-field ability but for an ability to excite and as such, sell tickets.

Williams failure to understand the colourless nature of rugby league serves only to reinforce his own personal ignorance.

It came as no surprise that the best most in rugby league could offer was that Williams looked “confused”, a wonderfully patronising yet accurate remark about a grown adult who views himself as some form of Luther-King like hero. Williams believes he has stirred the cage and is leading the charge, a William Wallace-like leader ready to lead his troops into battle. He will soon learn that he has no army behind him and no cause to fight for.

Times are going to get mean and unpleasant for Williams now. The little support he may have had after his act of treason was well and truly lost with his confusing, contradictory and nonsensical screed defending the indefensible. He now faces the very real prospect of losing his Australian assets and possibly going to prison for his continued defiance of the New South Wales Supreme Court. As he sits alone in a cell, his name long forgotten and “friends” like Mundine long gone, he will have plenty of time to consider the cost of his own greed, cowardice and stupidity.

Williams is a simple-minded man. Regardless, he is a man. And men are accountable for their own actions. This is a lesson the man they call Sonny Bill will soon find out.

*The Bulldogs were, in spite of the history book, the champions of the 2002 season

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