The tributes are flowing for Nick Politis as those in his inner sanctum plan to celebrate his 25years as Roosters chairman tomorrow night.
And while he has recruited some of the best talent in the game – including a young Brad Fittler – his biggest and most controversial signing was Sonny Bill Williams.
Heavy hitters: Sonny Bill Williams with Nick Politis and David Gyngell after the 2013 grand final win by the Roosters.
Williams was the most vilified figure in Australian sport when he walked out on the Bulldogs in 2008, but that didn’t faze Politis.
‘‘We first met in the Bulldogs days,’’ SBW recalled this week. ‘‘I was at a cafe and he was in Hurstville and he was in the area on business and we met then. He asked me about my life, my family, my football and that’s what he has been doing ever since that time.’’
Williams made good on a promise – and a famous handshake – that when he returned to league after a stint in rugby it would be at the Roosters.
‘‘When I made the promise to Nick, I was never going to back down on that promise,’’ Williams said. ‘‘A man like Nick is impossible to say no to. It was really simple: the only person who was going to bring me back to rugby league was Nick Politis – no one else.
Done deal: Sonny Bill Williams signs his contract with Sydney Roosters, with Nick Politis and lawyer Stephen Gorry in attendance.
‘‘I didn’t think of coming back for anyone else or to go to another place other than to play for Nick and his team.
‘‘When I was going through a tough time he had my back. He fought to try and get me back into the game earlier than I was supposed to. He was solid and in my corner when so many other people were not. I’ve made some decisions I regret in my life, but playing at the Roosters is not one of those.
‘‘I would say that I consider Nick to be family – and I don’t say that lightly. Whenever I come back to Sydney I see my family and I catch up with Nick. We just talk and he helps me make life decisions … he is always helping me out with ideas for business, which will help me after football.
‘‘There are things I can tell you and other things I can’t about Nick. But what I want people to know is that he has a good heart and a great mind. He is a man’s man.’’
The testimonials continue for Smith
It’s been quite the year of celebrations for Cameron Smith.
His testimonial game in February was the start and now we have been made aware of a testimonial lunch for Smith on August 16. One of my Storm insiders asked me to attend as a joke — assuming that the lunch was public knowledge.
It was a surprise to learn Smith was being lauded again; most unusual for a player who is assumed to be playing again next year.
Given I’m in the same boat as Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater when it comes to relationships with Smith, I have not been invited.
The lunch raises several questions, though. The most intriguing being: Will Slater attend?
We are hearing that is highly unlikely. They are a long way from being close mates.
Quite the shin dig: A seat at Cameron Smith’s testimonial costs $250 a head – minimum.
Will Cronk attend? Even more unlikely, given he is a Rooster and is on the outer with Smith.
Is this the end of Smith’s career? You wouldn’t think so, but he is yet to announce his next deal, which has been in the works for a while.
Why are the Storm holding a testimonial lunch, after a testimonial game — which was hard enough to swallow for a player who earns more than $1 million a year from his playing contract and endorsements. Unless, of course, all of the proceeds are going to charity. But there has been no mention of that.
The blurb that has been sent to me promoting the lunch says: ‘‘Come and celebrate a legend of rugby league. Listen at length to future immortal Cameron Smith and other greats of the game, past and present as we celebrate the man widely regarded as the greatest rugby league player of all time.’’
Surely Smith was asked to approve this copy? But we hope that he wasn’t. Yes, he will be an Immortal and we know some call him ‘‘The greatest’’ or ‘‘GOAT’’, but I think he has some challengers to be the greatest of his era, let alone all time.
So what will it cost for those wanting to hear Smith talk about his great career. You can pay as little as $250 a head, but for $350 a head you can sit with a Storm player. Here’s hoping the food is easier to digest than the promotion.
I asked the Storm for clarification about who would attend and where the money was going and received no response.
Chairman Beatties Grant into submission
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Beattie has achieved something many others have failed to do: he has finally driven his predecessor, John Grant, out of the game.
Smooth operator: Peter Beattie used his political street smarts to finally get John Grant out the door:
Grant is renowned for hanging on for grim death to any job he holds. It took two years for the NRL clubs to finally force him out as ARLC boss, and he only hung on that long by offering them the most lucrative funding deal in the game’s history.
For the past few months, Grant has put his energies into finding a way to stay at the helm of the Rugby League International Federation, even though his term expires in November. He quietly organised a governance review that suggested the RLIF should, in future, have an independent chairman – and that person should be him!
Under the plan there would have been a ‘‘transition period’’ of three years when Grant would continue to run the international game. The move infuriated delegates from Australia, New Zealand and England, and culminated in a spiteful and ugly meeting of the international board in Singapore last weekend.
As usual, Grant fought tooth and nail to keep his job. He always does.
But Beattie, a hardened politician who made it to the top of the Labor Party ranks, is a street fighter as well as a charmer. By the end of the weekend, Grant finally admitted defeat and agreed to leave the role in November.
Even Grant will find it hard to come back from this one.
Robbie hits back
Robbie Farah took a call from Sam Burgess after the Souths star ripped into him – calling him a cat, among other things – when Farah was ironed out by the Souths enforcer a few weeks back.
‘‘It was never personal,’’ Farah said. ‘‘Sammy called me to make sure that I was OK. I just reminded him that England didn’t bring the trophy home in the World Cup in the soccer. It was just a bit of passion spilling over.’’
All is forgiven: Burgess collects Tigers hooker Robbie Farah across the face.
Lyall and error
Word has got back to Manly that the Dragons have been checking out just how good an operator Eagles chief executive Lyall Gorman is. That must mean that Gorman has put in for the Dragons job, which is soon to be vacated by Peter Doust.
After experiencing great on-field success at the Sharks, but less-than-stellar results of it, it’s not likely Gorman will get a glowing endorsement from his old club. But he did win a title and guide the Sharks through a tricky time following the ASADA scandal.
Media call: Is Lyall Gorman heading to the Dragons?
At Manly the club has lurched from one disaster to the next, including the infamous night at a Gladstone strip club, for which Daly Cherry-Evans was fined $10,000 following a late-night altercation with Jackson Hastings. The club handled the matter very poorly and has not really recovered from it.
It’s been a mixed year in the Mitchell Moses–Luke Brooks household. Moses was in Brad Fittler’s sights to be the Blues half before the Eels’ season went horribly wrong.
‘‘To be tossed up by the coach and then miss out … that still hurts,’’ he said. ‘‘But the desire is there; it still burns in me.’’
His housemate, Brooks, was also touted as a potential Blues half at one stage. But not only did he miss out on the NSW jumper, he’s now a chance to make way for Nathan Cleary at the Tigers.
Which ex-Wallaby has been busted having a fling with a mate’s wife? She is a trainer at the gym he attends. It has cost him his marriage and he’s living at his mother’s house.
As much as Titans coach Garth Brennan might want Eels half Corey Norman, management of the Gold Coast club don’t.
They are happy to background media to say he will struggle to pass the club’s character test. Norman says it’s unfair to judge him on his past. Norman will be on $940,000 at the Eels next year, so they are keen to offload him.
The Titans are wary after signing Bryce Cartwright, who has been very disappointing since arriving on the glitter strip.
Danny Weidler is a reporter with Channel Nine news.
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