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SBW: Wolfpack switch 'an opportunity I couldn't turn down'

Sonny Bill Williams didn't necessarily plan on returning to rugby league but when he learned of the opportunity awaiting him at the Toronto Wolfpack, "I thought it was just meant to be".

SBW has held his first media conference since last week's announcement that he would leave the All Blacks to join the Toronto Wolfpack in the Super League.

A large media scrum greeted SBW at the announcement at Emirates Stadium in London.

"This deal came to fruition in such a short space of time," Williams said. "This was an opportunity I couldn't turn down.

"I'm grateful and blessed for this opportunity but understand what I'm coming into. It's great what Toronto have done and what they're trying to achieve. It all lined up and as a man of faith I thought it was just meant to be.

I'm a sportsman but I need to have a purpose.

Sonny Bill Williams

"I'm a sportsman but I need to have a purpose. I can be really suited to their style of game.

"Wherever I go I know there's a lot of headline grabbing and attention. I want my teammates to know when I'm coming to work it means I'm coming to do the things people don't see behind closed doors."

When asked if he would contemplate a return to the NRL, he didn't rule it out but said it would be highly unlikely.

"I'll be 36 by the time this contract finishes, I don't think I'll be going back to Australia anytime soon," he said.

"My wife might love living in Toronto, who knows, we may end up living there. I never expected to be sitting here right now but we are riding this wave and it’s exciting."

He said he first became aware of Toronto's interest while representing New Zealand at the recent Rugby World Cup in Japan where the All Blacks were surprisingly eliminated in the semi-finals.

"During the World Cup once I found out they were interested I started watching a few of their games. Their style is different to other teams.

"When I made contact with a couple of Australian players by all accounts it's different and there are other challenges but nothing I'm not used to," he said.

"To be honest before the World Cup I was intending to stay in New Zealand for another year in union.

"I think from all accounts with what I've heard a lot of Canadians don't understand the game but support it like Americans."

Williams has not played rugby league since his second stint in the NRL, with the Sydney Roosters in 2013-14, which included a grand final win in his first year at the club.

His first foray into the NRL, with Canterbury from 2004-08, also included a premiership in his opening season with the team.

Wolfpack coach Brian McDermott has made an immediate impression on the squad.

"Sonny came into camp yesterday and met all the players and staff. We've signed a world-class international player. The guy is a brand and has been building the brand up for a number of years," he said.

Former Roosters forward Sonny Bill Williams.
Former Roosters forward Sonny Bill Williams. ©NRL Photos

Toronto will play three early home matches on the road due to the Canadian winter so local fans won't get to see SBW on home turf until their round 11 on April 18 when they host Hull FC at Lamport Stadium.

The Wolfpack will make their Super League debut on February 2 against the Castleford Tigers.

They will face a stern initiation in their introduction to the top tier of northern hemisphere rugby league with their first five opponents, including premiers St Helens, finishing in the top five last season.