As Sonny Bill Williams stopped to pose for a yet another photo with a well-wisher on the main street of Lakemba, a passer-by tried to intervene.
"Leave him alone," the man yelled. It was unclear whether he mistakenly thought Williams needed saving from hostile Canterbury supporters or that the request by people wanting to have their photo taken with the Sydney Roosters superstar was too overwhelming. But that brief incident was the only time in the two hours Williams spent in the heart of Bulldogs territory on Tuesday night that anyone even raised their voice in his vicinity.
The Phil Gould Show
Sonny Bill Williams returns to face Bulldog fans, drawing attention away from a clash between the two rival teams.
Despite all the talk about how much Williams is hated by Canterbury supporters before his first match against the Bulldogs since walking out on the club in 2008, there seemed to be only love for him on the streets of Lakemba.
As Williams walked Haldon Street to the Chicken Licken cafe near Lakemba train station and then on to Al Andalos Cafe, he was constantly stopped by people wanting to wish him well on the field or get a photo with the dual international.
Some were Bulldogs supporters who said they were happy to see him back in the NRL after five years of playing rugby union.
Out the back of Al Andalos Cafe, where men were smoking hookah pipes and drinking tea, they lined up to get their photo taken with Williams.
"OK, $5 a photo," someone joked as people took turns sitting next to Williams on a lounge to pose for their photos.
At one stage, Williams even had a baby plonked on his knee. "They love him here," said Ahmad Ellaz, who plays for Newtown and was a member of last year's NSW Cup premiership-winning team.
Ellaz works at Chicken Licken, which is owned by his father, and has met Williams a few times.
"He is a superstar, he has got that vibe that makes you feel good," Ellaz said. "Everyone wants to talk to him, say hello and have a photo. Who wouldn't? He is a pretty high-profile sort of guy and he is really well known around this area. He is a humble man and he is well liked."