Rugby League Expert & Columnist
Brian Carney: Sonny Bill Williams 'the biggest signing in Super League history'
Last Updated: 08/11/19 8:25am
Brian Carney believes Toronto Wolfpack luring Sonny Bill Williams to Super League has to go down as the biggest signing in the competition's history.
The 34-year-old cross-code star has joined the Canadian outfit on a two-year contract and will start his third spell playing rugby league by being the leading light in the Wolfpack's first season in the top flight of the British game.
Sky Sports rugby league expert Carney is in no doubt that only Warrington Wolves' signing of Australian great Andrew Johns on a short-term contract in 2005 comes close to the Wolfpack clinching a deal with Williams, and has high hopes of what it can do for the profile of Super League.
"There's absolutely no question it's the biggest signing in Super League history," Carney told Sky Sports News.
"There's Sonny Bill Williams, there's Andrew Johns and then there's daylight. Nobody else who has signed - with all due respect to some brilliant rugby league players - will come close to the profile of this man.
"This will be important: With the profile of Sonny Bill Williams, what can Toronto and the other 11 clubs, and Super League as a competition do to leverage that profile, and bring more money and spectators into the game? That's got to be the aim.
"We've had players come under the marquee rule before which exempts a large portion of their salary from the salary cap.
"They have been excellent rugby league players on incredibly good money, this is an exceptional athlete on exceptional money, and is a marquee signing that can transcend the game and bring it to a brand new audience."
Confirmation of Williams' move to Toronto comes soon after he helped New Zealand's rugby union team to a third-place finish at this year's World Cup in Japan, having been part of the All Blacks teams which lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011 and 2015.
The Wolfpack have been linked with moves for England and Leicester Tigers star Manu Tuilagi, along with trying to tempt Valentine Holmes back to rugby league after he gave up a career in the 13-man code in an effort to make it in the NFL.
Williams will undoubtedly have an effect on the field for Toronto, but former Wigan Warriors player Carney expects his biggest impact to come off the field - both for his new club and the 11 other teams in Super League.
"This isn't a signing, in my opinion, which wins them Super League," Carney said. "He's first and foremost a rugby league player and he's a brilliant rugby league player, of that there is no doubt.
"But if you're looking at the Toronto Wolfpack squad and saying 'how do they improve to get to Old Trafford?' I'm not sure paying this much money for a back row is where they need to look at.
"Sonny Bill Williams isn't just being brought in to improve the side, he's more for the profile side.
"The other winners in this are the 11 other Super League clubs and the game of rugby league, and what they can do to leverage this signing and what they can do to benefit from the signing of Sonny Bill Williams."