SBW leaves with head held high
Sonny Bill Williams walks out of rugby league for the second time in his storied career, but this time he does so with his head held high, and with a legacy he says will last for years to come at the Roosters.
Williams' two-year stint with the Roosters drew to a close with their 32-22 defeat to the Rabbitohs on Friday night, with the dual-international set to return to the 15-man game as early as next month on the All Blacks' spring tour of Europe.
But having claimed a premiership ring, helped turn around the culture at the foundation club, and most significantly won back from the rugby league community a great deal of the respect he lost when he walked out on the Bulldogs, Williams says he now leaves the code with no regrets.
"The last two years, if you had have told me we'd be one game away from the grand final and have won a premiership, I'd take that hands down," Williams says.
"Looking back on the last two years I'm very proud of the way that I've conducted myself and proud to say that I've played alongside some great players and I'm proud to say that we've won a premiership
"Obviously it's disappointing tonight but I'll look back on my career and the last two years have been a great ride."
The contribution Williams has made at Roosters HQ goes far beyond that seen in his damaging displays on the playing pitch.
Widely regarded as the most professional athlete in the game, Williams is endorsed as the perfect example and a key element in the culture shift coach Trent Robinson has engineered at the club.
It's an influence Williams is reluctant to take credit for the influence he has had over the playing group, but admits he is proud of the legacy he will leave at Moore Park.
"I think there's a lot of hoopla been made of me and the culture, but it's a group mindset," Williams says.
"Everyone's changed and it just shows from where the club was a couple of years ago where it is now.
"That's the biggest thing I look back on, is being a part of that culture change. The last couple of months the boys have all got off the grog just to give it their all coming into finals and I don't see that changing any time soon. It was just a pleasure to be part of that group and leave that kind of lasting thing."
The 29-year-old has previously stated he could return to league once his two-year deal with New Zealand rugby union expires in 2017, and he again refused to rule out a third stint in the 13-man game.
He did confirm that should he return, it will be with one club, and one club only.
Asked could he only see himself playing for the Roosters, Williams responded: "100 per cent.
"This is the place for me."
"It's been a pleasure coming back here," he said.
"Thanks to (Roosters supremo) Nick Politis who was the main guy in getting me back, and it's just been a pleasure playing alongside some of these players. I've built friendships that will last a lifetime.
"For tonight and the next few days, I'll just spend some time with some of the boys and look back on the last couple of years with a big smile on face. I've got a lot of respect off the field I felt and I think that was one of the main things to coming back."