On the eve of Sonny Bill Williams' first NRL appearance in six years, Toronto Wolfpack officials have confirmed the club's new owners intend to honour his $5 million contract for next season.
Williams has been named by Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson to make his eagerly awaited return from the interchange bench in jersey No.17 for Saturday night's match against 2019 grand final opponents Canberra at GIO Stadium.
Star five-eighth Luke Keary and winger Daniel Tupou have also been named to make their comebacks from injury, while utility Mitch Aubusson and second-rower Angus Crichton are in the extended 21-man squad.
While Williams did not train with the team on Monday, Roosters officials revealed he worked out on his own as part of a conditioning plan formulated by the club ahead of his first match since the Wolfpack's March 5 clash with Leeds at Headingley.
Toronto's decision to withdraw from the Super League competition on July 20 paved the way for Williams to return to the Roosters for the remainder of the season in a bid to help the club become the first since Parramatta (1981-83) to win three consecutive premierships.
If they are successful, it would also be the dual code superstar’s third NRL premiership after helping Canterbury and the Roosters to grand final wins in 2004 and 2013.
However, he remains contracted to Wolfpack for next season after signing a $10 million two-year deal and Toronto’s prospective new owners are due to speak with Super League CEO Robert Elstone this week about the club’s return to the competition in 2021.
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The new ownership group, who have been identified as the preferred consortium to take over from David Argyle, will also table a five-year business plan and NRL.com was told that they were anticipating taking on "all contractual liabilities", including Williams’ massive deal.
Toronto coach Brian McDermott, who is respected highly by Williams, is ready to take charge of the team again once the Wolfpack are given the green light to return to Super League next season, with a final decision expected in late September.
Wolfpack signed Williams because of his drawing power as much as his on-field talent and his ability to generate interest has again been highlighted by the demand for tickets to Saturday night’s match in Canberra.
After an initial allocation of 1500 tickets sold out on Monday, Raiders officials have been forced to make the match a "members only" affair, with a further 1500 tickets going on sale on Wednesday to financial supporters of the Green Machine.
Tickets for previous matches at GIO Stadium this season have also been offered to the general public but a Canberra spokesperson said that due to the demand for the Roosters clash Saturday night's match will be members only.
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Rival players are also excited about the return of Williams, with Penrith second-rower Viliame Kikau saying it would be a career highlight if the NRL competition leaders met the defending premiers in the finals.
"For me, that would be a dream come true. That would be one of the biggest highlights of my career to play against someone that I have looked up to since my childhood. I reckon it would be crazy," Kikau said.
"He is the one that I always looked up to growing up back in the islands. He is one of the first names of rugby league heroes that I knew."
Williams recently revealed that Kikau was one of his favourite players to watch but the Fijian played down comparisons with the former All Blacks and Kiwis star.
"For me personally I am nowhere near Sonny Bill," he said. "First of all, I don’t have a rig like Sonny Bill, he has got the best rig in the league. I have got a one-pack and he has got an eight-pack.
"It is crazy to see him come back in the game and I just looking forward to seeing him back playing rugby league."