Alright, alright. Sonny Bill Williams gets a disproportionate amount of attention in this world. He’s pretty, he bangs beautiful women, he gets paid millions and nobody ever says a bad word about him. There’s no dirt on this guy – after all, he’s a UNICEF ambassador, he’s genuinely humble, and he prays five times a day – which is a lot more than the rest of us.
One thing we know is when you’re a good-looking muscular millionaire, going from one elite sports tournament to the next, you’re going to come away with some great stories. Many of them are included in You Can’t Stop The Sun From Shining, recently published by Hachette (Buy it from all good book stores – it’s $49, but it comes with lots of shirtless pics to justify the price).
Remember, these are the reasons Sonny Bill is an athletic superman, and the book describes him as a “once in a hundred year athlete.” This stuff is pretty staggering, actually: · Sonny Bill smashed all athletic competition in many sports at Owairaka District Primary School back in the 1990s, and at age 11 represented NZ at the Transtasman Games · Age 14, had the body of an adult and was on his way to entering the NRL · Played for an astonishing variety of rugby league and rugby teams including the Canterbury Bulldogs, Sydney Roosters, Toronto Wolfpack, Toulon (France), Canterbury Crusaders, Counties-Manukau, Chiefs and Blues. · He’s an Olympian too, having played Rugby Sevens in the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro
· Joined the All Blacks for 58 tests and two Rugby World Cup wins · Held major NZ boxing titles – the NZ Professional Boxing Association Heavyweight Champion and WBA International Heavyweight Champion. · …and he still makes time to father four kids and visit other kids at refugee camps in Lebanon.
SBW’s autobiography may have the wussiest title in sports book history, but its ghostwriter is Alan Duff, who has written some cool books (including Once Were Warriors). With thanks to Hachette, Sonny Bill Williams and Alan Duff for doing the hard work putting the book together, here are seven scandalous stories from Sonny Bill’s book:
Sonny Bill’s central Auckland childhood was full of what he describes as “spills, burns, breaks and infections.” Williams was a little kid at an Auckland Barnardos daycare in the late 1980s. Inside the daycare’s kitchen two nitwit teenagers were cooking chips in oil. When the pan caught, the two abandoned responsibility – and Baby Bill ended up with boiling fat down the back of his legs. “I guess one reason I’ve blanked it out all this time is the pain,” Williams told media. “It’s a kind of pain only someone who’s been severely burnt can understand.” The skin grafts were so fragile, his parents were not allowed physical contact and Williams spent six months in the burns unit at Auckland Hospital. Aged just 4, he came home in a wheelchair. Next year, at primary school, the other kids called him “Kentucky Fried Chicken legs and “Sonny Burnt Legs,” Williams recalls. He would cover up the burns for years – later accepting that he had hit a pain barrier which would later propel him towards excellence in sporting endurance.
SBW got his spine smashed on the rugby field at school. “I was nine years old and got tackled. Then several of the opposition boys were punching me in the back. I just got up and kept playing. The next day, my back really hurt. Mum took me to hospital and next minute, I was in intensive care getting a needle in my spine and the blood drained from a big sac that had formed on my lower back,” he reveals in the book. “I’d got infected where they punched me and it was so bad I could have died. Mum wished she had been at the game so she could give the assailants a slap.”
SBW’s brother John Arthur Williams is two years older, and used to take care of a lot of the violence in their younger days. Johnny has ended up a pious religious man like little brother Sonny – but Johnny had his dirty days. “Not all that long before I moved to Australia, Mum took me aside to say she and Dad had split up… I chose to stay with Dad because I didn’t like the idea of him living alone. Six months later, Johnny was living with his girlfriend and selling drugs out of his rented house.” Johnny was wild years earlier at school, though the book give us stories of Johnny smashing a kid who would go on to become a professional boxer. Johnny was one of SBW’s two protectors – the other being his mum. “One time at school, a big boy hit me with a cricket bat and johnny came sprinting over – he was on detention or something – and beats the guy up.” Johnny was also there during the SG Ball clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2003, which descended into a violent brawl, footage of which would surface 15 years later. Players fought, somebody kinghit Sonny Bill, both benches full of players jumped into the fight, and spectators got involved too – including brother Johnny. “There was an aftermath and Johnny was not so lucky. He was in this bar one time and these guys were giving him lip because they knew he was my brother. He followed one to the toilet and dropped him. But then my crazy bro comes back to the bar and carries on drinking for an hour or so. When he walked outside there were five guys waiting for him.” Johnny evidently took a beating. “But at least it was fists,” Sonny Bill concedes.
In 2017, while playing against the British & Irish Lions, SBW became first ever All Black to be red carded in New Zealand – costing the All Blacks the game. Williams was sent off after 25 minutes for a head-high shoulder charge on British winger Anthony Watson in the second Lions test in Wellington, making him the first All Black red card for 50 years and the first ever in NZ. “I always tried to play with passion and physicality, especially at the highest level,” Williams recalls in his book. “But sometimes you get it wrong, as I did on this night…. It was tough knowing I had let my teammates down.”
SBW isn’t spotless. He got busted drink-driving in Australia in 2005. “There is no excuse for the drinkdriving, for which I deserved the media avalanche,” SBW says, recalling that the Canterbury Bulldogs barely took care of him. “There was no conversation from anyone about my wellbeing at all. I was told to admit publicly I had a drinking problem and sent on a course for problem drinkers.”
Williams used to stick his willy where the sun don’t shine. In his early years, “I had my share of women; some might say I was promiscuous. But I was a young guy and that’s what all the guys around me were doing. I was just following the group, not questioning whether it was right or wrong. What young man turns down a beautiful woman? […] I always felt really bad whenever I ditched a woman and moved on to the next. That inner turmoil is a wild storm.” One of those incidents was in 2007 when SBW banged an Ironwoman athlete in a toilet stall at a nightclub – and headlines went around the world. “I had a girlfriend at home who was publicly humiliated as well as suffering the pain of being cheated on.”
Teflon-y Sonny, the dirtfree Wonderboy, actually hit the drugs pretty hard at times. One bender early in his career could have ended in death, he reckons. “I went on a bender that lasted from Friday night to Monday morning,” Williams says in the book. “The only reason I came home is I knew I had a surgery appointment at 11am. I don’t remember anything about the operation except waking up having my girlfriend crying next to the bed and the doc really gave it to me, telling me I had so many drugs in my system I could have died.” In 2005, SBW got into the ol’ drugs when he was injured and away from the field – particularly after breaking his arm on the head of Eels player Nathan Hindmarsh and feeling that, because the game of league defined him, having the game taken away caused “a huge sense of loss” and made him feel worthless. Drugs and drink occupied that place, Williams says. “In those days, taking alcohol and drugs was how I dealt with the dark times. It was the only way I knew.” “In 2005, only my second year in the NRL, I did my knee and was out for the rest of the year. I was living with another injured player, Willie Tonga, and we just partied – every day of the week except Mondays. Willie never touched drugs, but I did. I touched everything going that was supposed to give bodily pleasure. Come Monday, it’s 6am and Willie and I [would be] sitting in the car with training due to start in a few hours, asking ourselves what had we done, where had we been and who were the women in the car with us?” Interesting, despite Tonga being equally naughty, Tonga would pray frequently, and Tonga’s faith soon enough inspired Williams to find solace in the religion of Islam.
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