Sydney Roosters centre Josh Morris has laid down a challenge for rival forwards when Sonny Bill Williams makes his eagerly awaited NRL return by declaring: "We will see who the first person to run at him is and see what happens".
Williams, who joined the Roosters camp on Friday, was targeted by South Sydney's Sam Burgess in the opening match of his previous stint with the club in 2013 and he expects opposition forwards to test him out when he plays again.
The September 5 clash with Canberra has been pencilled by Roosters coach Trent Robinson for Williams first appearance but the 35-year-old said he was mentally prepared to play sooner if needed due to the club's current injury crisis.
After two weeks confined to a hotel room while undergoing a mandatory quarantine, Williams had his first training session on Saturday and he hasn't played since March so Robinson is refusing to rush him but the dual code superstar knows nothing can fully prepare him for his return match.
"Out on the field I think I will be targeted because I haven't played for so long," Williams said. "It's just common sense really but I have been around for a long time so hopefully I will use a bit of that experience to help me out and maybe I can push some of the boys in to do my tackling."
SBW admits he's no spring chicken
Morris agrees but he also has memories of being steamrolled by Williams in a match and cautioned the Raiders and other opponent that they risked finishing second best.
"You have got to test him out to see where he is at," Morris said. "You'd be silly not to.
"I still remember when he first came onto the scene [with the Bulldogs]. He was playing centre in his first game and just tore the opponents to shreds and in 2004, being a young fellow, the way he led that pack and some of the shots that he put on could change the course of a game.
"I think he actually ran over me one time while he was here to score a try so that's a bad memory."
Morris is one of many new faces in the Roosters team since Williams returned to the All Blacks after the 2014 season and some met him for the first time on Friday.
Given his standing as a dual code superstar, Robinson did not need to introduce Williams to his teammates – some of whom admitted to being star struck.
"He just came around and said hello to everyone. It was pretty cool," centre Joey Manu said. "Growing up he was one of the top sports people in New Zealand so I definitely looked up to him.
"Some of the things he did, all of our mates would talk about it at school the next day so I'm just really excited to see him here and hopefully playing next to him.
"I didn't really talk to him too much, I just said hello and hopefully I will talk to him a bit more over time so I get to know him a bit more and learn off him."
Robinson will not rush SBW in
Morris joined Canterbury in 2009, the season after Williams left to join French rugby union club Toulon, so he wasn't a popular figure at Belmore at the time but the 32-year-old said he was excited to finally play alongside him.
"Just meeting him over the last two days and talking to him, he definitely has a presence about him," Morris said. "This is the first opportunity I have got to play with him and I am looking forward to it."
Hooker Jake Friend is one of just a handful of his former team-mates still at the Roosters but he said Williams had left an indelible mark on the back-to-back premiers.
"Sonny has been here before, it's home for him and we are excited to have him back," Friend said. "Obviously that was probably the start of the run for us and culture wise I think Sonny was a big part of that.
"We have done really well to continue on with that and we are looking forward to seeing if there is anything else we can take from Sonny. He has been part of the All Blacks which is pretty awesome organisation so I am sure there are some things we can learn from him."
Williams said there were similarities between the Roosters and the All Blacks which enabled both outfits to dominate their respective codes.
"It's a very high performance orientated environment here and there are definitely similarities between the Roosters and the All Black," he said. "It is really exciting and almost an honour to come back here and see the growth in that area.
"For the players, it's at their fingertips to be the best they can be both physically and mentally, and as sportsmen. Whether that is on the field or off it.
"It is a credit to the organisation from Nick [Politis] down to Trent that have allowed them to have that but have also put the growth mindset in the players not to just think this is how it has been done for so long so we will just stick to that way of thinking or playing footy
"When I see that, it is not much of a secret to how successful they have been the last couple of years."