Waiting game ... Sonny Bill Williams. Photo: Getty Images
THE most anticipated comeback in rugby league history is less than a week away but Sonny Bill Williams's contract is yet to be registered by the NRL.
Williams's one-year deal with Sydney Roosters has yet to be ratified by salary cap auditor Ian Schubert, sparking fears the dual international may not take his place for the season opener against South Sydney on Thursday night.
Williams signed what Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan described as a ''vanilla'' contract in November. However, it appears the club has more work to do to placate Schubert, who hopped on a motorcycle on Thursday to join Brad Fittler and Nathan Hindmarsh on a charity ride to raise funds for Father Chris Riley's Youth off the Streets organisation.
''We are waiting for some information that has been requested from the club,'' NRL spokesman John Brady said. ''Everyone is aware of the need to process this as soon as possible.''
Despite being a huge drawcard, Williams did not feature in the NRL's advertising campaign, which was officially launched at the Star on Wednesday night.
Clubs have until Friday to lodge signed statutory declarations that they comply with the salary cap.
The prospect of Williams missing the blockbuster season opener would be an unmitigated disaster for the ARL Commission, with the match expected to be a ratings bonanza for Channel Nine.
Williams hasn't played in the NRL since controversially walking out on the Bulldogs five years ago and a capacity crowd is expected for the Allianz Stadium encounter.
Canavan said the club would lodge the required paperwork with the NRL ''in the next couple of days'' and did not foresee any further complications.
''There's a bit of paperwork to transpire,'' Canavan said. ''The registration is conditional on some paperwork to be supplied. There's a bit more detail [required] in some of the correspondence we sent through, which is virtually assembled now.''
Asked if there was a sticking point in registration, Canavan replied: ''We don't see it as one. It's just been ongoing, it's a unique situation and one that hasn't occurred before, I don't think.''
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said he was prepared to allow the former All Black to box again in the off-season if it meant extending his stay at Bondi Junction. Williams defeated Francois Botha three weeks ago to win the World Boxing Association international heavyweight belt in Brisbane.
''I'm definitely open to all of that type of thing,'' Robinson said. ''Knowing the person has been important in making those decisions. I was comfortable for him to do that [against Botha] and if that has to happen for us to keep him, I'd be happy with that again.''
NRL chief executive Dave Smith acknowledged the importance of Williams on the 2013 season, describing him as a ''fabulous athlete''.
''I've watched him box, I've watched him play rugby union, I've watched him play rugby league,'' Smith said. ''He'll be great for rugby league. I hear he's a pretty top bloke as well.
''I've not met him yet, but he's a fabulous athlete and I'm looking forward to seeing him on the field. I know there's been some controversy about the past, but I'm not about the past, I'm about the future. He's an amazing guy; he can do so much.''
Asked about his hope that Williams would remain in the NRL, Smith said: ''I want everybody to come into rugby league, and when they come in, they stay forever.
''We want to increase the rugby league family. I'm a new entrant to the rugby league family, I'm finding my way in there, but anybody who comes into our game, we want them to stay forever. We want them to be part of it forever.''
The NRL's contracting system has come under scrutiny following the length of time it took for Israel Folau's Parramatta offer to be scrutinised. Frustrated by the delays, Folau signed with the Waratahs.
And Josh Papalii has until round 13 to decide whether to honour his deal to join the Eels from next year or to remain with incumbent club Canberra.