Roosters a done deal, says SBW
THE LAST WORD
Bondi-bound ... Sonny Bill Williams.
SONNY BILL WILLIAMS has all but confirmed he will be a Rooster next year, but before that he has another huge challenge on his hands - fighting South African heavyweight Francois Botha at the end of next month. Speaking from Japan, Williams told me there were no more details to be finalised with the Bondi-based club and he had always intended to honour his handshake deal with Roosters supremo Nick Politis. ''It's a done deal. I made it a long time ago,'' he said. ''I know where I'm playing next year and I'm ready to meet the challenge head-on. There's no more negotiations that need to be done.'' After becoming one of the best centres in the world in rugby union, and bringing a new dimension to the rival code with his freakish offloading ability, Williams is unfazed by having to readjust to the 13-man game. ''Next year I've been out of the game for five years and next year I have to go and meet the challenge head-on, there is no other way around it,'' he said. ''That's what I'll be doing. It might take me a bit of time to adjust but I hope it doesn't. We will see how we go.'' Williams, of course, is no stranger to multi-skilling across different sports. His contract with Japanese side Panasonic Wild Knights expires in January, but even before then he has lined up a bout with Botha - the ''White Buffalo'' - in Brisbane on November 24. The 44-year-old South African has won 48 fights, lost eight and drawn three in a pro career that includes a fifth-round knockout at the hands of Mike Tyson. ''It's a bit of a daunting prospect but I believe it's a step in the right direction for my boxing,'' Williams said. ''I think the rivalry between New Zealand and South Africa in the rugby sense, it makes it a bit more special.'' Williams last fought in February, scoring a first-round TKO over American Clarence Tillman III in Hamilton. However, Botha appears a big step-up in class. ''I think when you're fighting someone with 60 fights and you've only had five, you have to prepare as well as you can,'' Williams said. ''I feel in my last fight a lot of people wrote me off and you know I performed pretty well. I performed above expectations. Hopefully this Francis Botha is someone I can do the same [against]. I guess I'm putting myself out there again in a boxing sense. A lot of people will be saying I've bit off more than I can chew this time but I'll be looking to do what I've done last fight.'' So how is he handling preparations to compete in three different sports in the space of only several months? ''I've always put myself in testing waters and to my delight so far I've come up trumps,'' Williams said. ''Right now it's a bit tricky 'cause I've got rugby commitments as well, but they've [the Wild Knights] been pretty good in that they've let me do my boxing training in the morning, and also in the afternoon do my rugby training. I feel it only improves me as a rugby player and the proof is in the pudding - the last two years I've played my best rugby, some of my best footy of my career, and I put that down to a bit of boxing on the side.''
Gal's big no to Mad Monday dress-ups
NSW captain Paul Gallen says players should quit dressing up on Mad Monday to avoid becoming media targets - but says the idea of banning the annual celebrations is crazy. Gallen also feels cameras have no reason to be at the players' private celebrations - especially if there are no funny costumes. "I'm not a fan of the dress-up at all - I don't really get it and don't encourage our blokes [at Cronulla] to go that way at all. I know that the media likes those kind of shots and it's a reason to go and follow blokes around. I'll be encouraging our blokes like I did this year not to do that dress-up stuff. If blokes are in a private area and not doing anything to bring attention to themselves why shouldn't they be allowed to have a drink? At the Sharks we went to a private room and had our fun.'' Gallen says the thought of banning Mad Monday or calling it something else altogether is just dumb. "Do you ban Christmas parties for office workers? What about a drink at the end of a week on a Friday night?''
BULLDOGS chief executive Todd Greenberg held private talks with Channel Nine boss David Gyngell in the wake of the Mad Monday dramas and Gyngell's advice may have saved the NRL club some further pain and drama. They have a long relationship, and it is understood Gyngell gave Greenberg some advice when it comes to dealing with and challenging the media and he took it on board. Greenberg is said to have impressed Gyngell with his commitment to his club and his willingness to fight for his players. Having had the chance to witness how clubs and the NRL investigate matters at close range over the past week, it really makes you wonder if they ever want to find out what really happened. And the fact that Sam Kasiano has been identified as the one player who was singing ''punch you in the face'' at the media but has not been fined and suspended by the Dogs or the NRL makes you think that it was time that the ARL Commission stepped in and established its own investigation unit rather than leaving it to overworked, underpaid employees. On Monday morning Greenberg, Bulldogs chairman Ray Dib and Des Hasler had a meeting with Nine heavyweights Jeff Browne and Darren Wick. The ARLC's interim chief executive, Shane Mattiske, attended too, and he entered it clearly supporting the Dogs in their view they had been hard done by. This is despite Nine being completely open with the Bulldogs and the ARLC. Nine informed the Bulldogs immediately after the abuse had occurred, and provided the Bulldogs with the full camera recording of the incident. The Bulldogs have produced no CCTV footage, which supports Nine's version of events. They have produced no witnesses or witness statements. They have produced no statutory declarations. They have not interviewed Jayne Azzopardi, nor cameraman Travis Nemtsas. The ARLC did not view the CCTV footage, nor did it speak with any participants or witnesses. The ARLC interviewed Azzopardi only on Tuesday afternoon, by telephone, after Nine insisted. In short, the ARLC has made no effort to conduct an independent or competent inquiry into the events. The Bulldogs have chosen to ignore the sequence of events on the day. Instead, the club management is pinning its entire defence on bizarre YouTube footage featuring James Graham, the player banned for 12 games on a biting charge in the grand final. According to the Bulldogs, he didn't do that either. The fact the ARLC was willing to back the Dogs with so little evidence is a real worry. There is no doubt that Browne's strong stance in the meeting, and the way he and Wick told the ARLC they were backing their reporter to the hilt, may have had some influence over the way the situation panned out. Browne also was strong when Dib tried to fire him up - to say Browne stopped him in his tracks is an understatement.
Graham on outer
JAMES GRAHAM must be wondering if the Bulldogs are with him or against him - he was thrown under the bus by the club when they produced the YouTube footage of him being handled by an older woman as their Mad Monday defence. He is sure to be given grief by players at rival teams. The club has also been happy to spread the line that his nickname is ''Dog'' or even ''Dumb Dog'' which replaces Bupa and Cow's Head.
THIS column alerted you to the fact the Dragons were in the hunt in a big way for Craig Bellamy and they are in the best position to have a crack at the Storm coach simply because St George Illawarra's Steve Price is off contract and yet to make his mark as an NRL coach. The main competition the Dragons face could well come from the Cowboys. There are plenty within that organisation who believe Bellamy has the coaching pedigree to turn North Queensland into a multiple premiership-winning club.
Knives out at ARU
ARU chairman Michael Hawker did a great job of talking for outgoing chief John O'Neill in his ''retirement'' media conference on Friday - which is ironic if you believe the stories the pair do not get along. O'Neill used to rule the roost before Hawker came on to the scene. I've been told the pair do not get along. O'Neill is normally a polished media performer but he was made to look like a first-day rookie when questions about Quade Cooper and Robbie Deans were cut off by Hawker. From what I've been told, Hawker has dominated O'Neill and the pair rarely talk unless it's for professional reasons. Word is David Nucifora is off with the states in rugby and could also be on his way out.
QUADE COOPER has been sitting back with a knowing look on his face after his arch enemy Richie McCaw launched into Robbie Deans. McCaw barked out a line: ''Robbie's approach is to say, 'This is what we are doing' then convince people that's the way it has to be. He is very good at that.'' He also said: ''Robbie doesn't want to be challenged by his assistants''. Those have been among the criticisms that Cooper has made of Deans publicly and privately - and the truth is there are plenty of players who have agreed with Cooper's views - but not the way he said it. It makes the ARU look silly for going with Deans who has not delivered on what his track record promised. And one day soon Cooper will get some credit for having the courage to stand up. Cooper was the subject of an attack from McCaw in response to his knee to the head. McCaw wrote with passion about the event. ''It proves he has a heartbeat at least,'' Cooper said.
Gallop takes the reins
SPOTTED at last night's Sydney FC match was David Gallop getting his Alessandro Del Piero fix and starting to endear himself to the football faithful. He is a changed man - but confused about his exit from the NRL.
IT WAS a throwaway line from a Playboy bunny but when Ciara Price said she preferred Hawthorn superstar Buddy Franklin to Mitchell Pearce because she couldn't handle being ''around all that alcohol all the time'' the alarm bells started ringing in Roosterland. This column heard stories about the wild days of Pearce, especially after State of Origin. Players have mentioned their concerns to those with power at the Roosters.