Off the Wall

On the day that one of the most loyal players in the history of the game, Darren Lockyer, launched his autobiography, the media began musing over a possible return to the NRL by Sonny Bill Williams.

It is just a few weeks since the boss of a major television network made the nonsense claim that Williams is "the best player in the world in either rugby code".

It's been a downhill run since then. He cannot even make the All Blacks team!

Now there is speculation he is considering a return to rugby league - and possibly the NRL.

It will be interesting to see how David Gallop and the NRL handle it if he seeks to.

He must not be given an automatic return to the NRL. What the UK Super League does is its own business.

Williams left the NRL in controversy. He walked out on a contract with the Bulldogs mid-season. He has hardly been a PR agent for rugby league since then.

That should be taken into account if he makes an application to link up with an NRL club.

And if it is, then he should be told very directly - "no thanks".

The same approach needs to be taken to other former players who have deserted the game and have allowed themselves to be used in campaigns that are effectively designed to undermine rugby league.

That means the "no thanks" response ought to be given to any request by Karmichael Hunt, or Israel Folau.

At the very least they should be forced to sit out a season before being allowed back into the NRL.

Rugby league is under challenge from a cashed up AFL for the loyalty of junior players, and fans, in Western Sydney and on the Gold Coast. There should be no free pass back to any former NRL player who takes the AFL's dollars - and the promotional demands that go with it.

And rugby, while less of a direct threat, is a competitor - especially with the World Cup overlapping the NRL finals.

A bit of good old fashioned loyalty is what the game needs today - the kind of loyalty the Darren Lockyer's, the Nathan Hindmarsh's and any number of other long serving players have displayed.

If Sonny Bill Williams wants to leave New Zealand rugby then good luck to him.

But is he really what the NRL wants?