Sonny Bill Williams is set to arrive in Australia on Thursday to begin a 14-day quarantine period before joining Sydney Roosters for the remainder of the season.
The dual code superstar is yet to formalise an agreement with the Roosters but is expected to do so before departing Manchester with his wife Alana and their four children on Wednesday or after their arrival.
After completing his mandatory fortnight in quarantine, his first match for the Roosters could be the August 22 clash with Wests Tigers but is more likely to be six days later against Brisbane or the round 17 trip to Canberra on September 5.
The Roosters have made room in their 30-man roster for Williams to help the club’s campaign to win a third consecutive grand final by releasing rookie Asu Kepaoa to the Tigers.
Toronto Wolfpack have given Williams and the club’s other players permission to play elsewhere after withdrawing from Super League.
Wolfpack CEO Bob Hunter said the club hoped Williams would return next season and it appears unlikely he will have to terminate his $10 million Super League contract before the NRL registers his short-term deal with the Roosters.
Robinson expects SBW will still have an impact
NRL officials were insisting just days ago that players cannot hold simultaneous contracts with two competitions but ARL chairman Peter V'landys has described the case of Williams as "extraordinary circumstances" and he is an extraordinary athlete.
From the way he departed Canterbury in 2008 to play rugby union in France to his move to New Zealand to become an All Black, his first stint with the Roosters in 2013, return to the All Blacks and his record deal with Toronto, Williams has consistently changed the rules.
The 34-year-old, who will celebrate his next birthday in quarantine with his family, caused a global pursuit by lawyers and media organisations when he suddenly quit the Bulldogs to join Toulon and eventually paid a $750,000 release fee and served a five-year ban from the NRL.
However, the All Blacks quickly realised his potential and Williams was the first player offered a New Zealand Rugby contract without having played the code in his country of birth.
He became the first player in 90 years and just the second after Karl Ifwersen in 1920 to play for the All Blacks after representing the Kiwis when he made his Test debut against England at Twickenham in 2010, without playing a Super Rugby match.
After helping the All Blacks to World Cup glory in 2011, Williams returned to the NRL at the start of the 2013 season and made his first appearance for the Roosters in the opening round clash with South Sydney just three weeks after finishing a rugby union stint in Japan.
Williams starred in the Roosters' 2013 grand final triumph over Manly, was named RLIF player of the year during the World Cup in England and after another season in the NRL he returned to the All Blacks for the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.
He then stunned the sporting world by signing a two-year $10 million deal with Toronto Wolfpack that created massive publicity for the ambitious club in North America and across the globe.
It is understood Williams has received the majority of his payment for 2020 from Wolfpack and is waiting to learn the club’s fate after withdrawing from Super League before deciding his long-term future.
NRL players open to SBW return
Wolfpack owner David Argyle has told rival Super League clubs he would only continue to invest in the Canadian club if they received the same share of UK broadcast revenue as their rivals.
It appears Argyle is banking on the other Super League clubs accepting that if the Wolfpack are kicked out or fold they would need to provide a share of the funding to any team that replaced them.
However, Hunter said on Monday the Wolfpack would continue with or without Argyle and other financial models were being considered.
Hunter also conceded the Wolfpack may be demoted to the Championship and if that were to happen, it is believed Williams and other players have a clause in their contracts enabling them to leave if they wanted to play at a higher level.
"The preference would be that the guys we have an investment in would be around next spring and ready to go again," Hunter said in an interview with League Express published on Monday.
"But we understand that if a potential opportunity presents itself for a more long-term and stable environment, we would support that.
"There’s Sonny Bill and Ricky Leutele and 15 others we’d love to have back, but we’ve put them in a precarious position. So we would encourage them to kick on with the club, but if they came to us and said they’d prefer to sign a longer term deal, we wouldn’t stand in their way."
He added that the club did not want to go back to the Championship after working hard to reach the Super League but would accept that fate if league officials penalised them for withdrawing from the rest of the 2020 season.
Hunter also said there was "the potential for new ownership" of the club, possibly from the UK.