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Sonny Bill Williams ends 15-year feud with Bulldogs in return to Belmore

The retired cross-code star infamously walked out on the Bulldogs in 2008.

Sonny Bill Williams, pictured here with former Bulldogs teammates Andrew Ryan, Willie Mason and Mark O'Meley.
Sonny Bill Williams with former Bulldogs teammates Andrew Ryan, Willie Mason and Mark O'Meley. Image: Twitter/Getty

Sonny Bill Williams and the Canterbury Bulldogs have seemingly buried the hatchet after the cross-code star was invited to training last week. Williams infamously walked out on the Bulldogs in 2008, with the club taking him to the Supreme Court in a landmark move that changed playing contracts.

Williams flew to France in the middle of the 2008 season to play rugby union for Toulon, despite still being contracted to the Bulldogs. Toulon would later pay the Bulldogs $750,000 for the transfer fee, with Williams returning to the NRL in 2013 to play for the Roosters.

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Williams hadn't been back at Belmore since due to a long-running feud with the club and his former teammates. However it appears as though it's all been left in the past, with SBW making an appearance at training last week and speaking to the players.

Bulldogs general manager of football Phil Gould confirmed to News Corp that Williams had been at Belmore, while he also appeared in photos on social media with former teammates Willie Mason, Andrew Ryan, Willie Tonga and Mark O'Meley. “Sonny spoke and the boys were speechless," a 'source' close to the players told News Corp.

“They were in awe of his story. He took them through everything in his career, his journey.”

Sonny Bill Williams wasn't happy at the Bulldogs

Williams played 73 games for the Bulldogs after making his debut in 2004 as a 19-year-old. He helped the club win the grand final that year and became the youngest player ever picked to represent New Zealand in a Test match.

But he called it quits in 2008 and fled to France, revealing in 2021 that he wasn't happy at the Bulldogs. "Although I was playing some great footy at the time when I took off, I was deeply, deeply unhappy off it," he said.

Sonny Bill Williams, pictured here in action for the Bulldogs in 2008.
Sonny Bill Williams in action for the Bulldogs in 2008. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

“I wish that I had the mindset that I have now because it wouldn’t have gone down the way it went down. I would have been more confident to stand up and say 'this is how I’m feeling, this is what needs to change.’

“I just felt like I needed to escape. But what I found out was that when I ran, the man in the mirror, the problems I was facing, were staring straight back at me in the mirror in France.”

Williams spent three years at Toulon before making the switch to New Zealand rugby. He went on to play for the All Blacks 58 times.

The 38-year-old came back to the NRL in 2013 and played 45 games for the Roosters, before returning to rugby and playing for the Chiefs and Blues. He had one final stint in the NRL with the Roosters in 2020 before announcing his retirement.

He has since moved into the world of commentary and has fought in the boxing ring a number of times. He has a 10-1 record in boxing with four knockouts.

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