Header Ads

Sonny Bill Williams apologises after Tohu Harris is sacrificed to allow Roosters star to join the New Zealand squad

Sonny Bill Williams. Image credit: The Telegraph
SONNY Bill Williams tweeted Wednesday he wanted to play the rugby league World Cup to help his New Zealand "brothers". Tohu Harris mustn't be part of the family.

Harris was a World Cup hero for just 24 hours.

The Melbourne Storm forward has been dumped from the 24-man Kiwi squad for the late inclusion of Williams, the Sydney Roosters superstar.

Harris had celebrated his selection on Tuesday, only to be left "bitterly disappointed" Wednesday when axed.

Williams apologised Wednesday night over the Harris situation, saying it was "never my intention".

He then expanded on his apology in an interview with BBC World Service, admitting his decision to make himself available for the World Cup after the New Zealand squad had been named was "selfish""I'm sorry for taking someone else's spot," Williams said. "I actually feel like shit, to tell you the truth.

"When I spoke to Stephen Kearney my body was sore and tired.

"I've not had a rest since 2008 and thought I could go on a vacation with my family but I made a rash decision without thinking about it.

"Afterwards I thought what I would miss out on and remembered how bad I felt in 2008.

"I couldn't look at myself in the mirror so I had to make the phone call and say I was available."I guess it took 24 hours and the team to be named for it to sink in. But a gut feeling … in 10 years would I have regrets about not making myself available? I've got a lot of time after I'm retired. It can be played off as selfish, but I just left it in the coach's hands.

"Now that I'm there, don't expect anything other than a full-hearted performance."

Kiwi selector Richie Barnett said Williams had "disrespected" his teammates while New Zealand legend Hugh McGahan told The Daily Telegraph that Harris would be "shattered".

"Twenty-four hours ago he was telephoned by Steve Kearney and congratulated," McGahan said. "He probably celebrated and told his family, who may even have booked tickets to fly over.

"Now they will say, ‘Sorry, mate, you’re out.’"How is he to feel? I don’t know what would be going through his head.

"It would be really tough and disappointing. But it’s not the fault of the NZRL.

"From a New Zealand rugby league point of view, I’m glad Sonny Bill is going. But what could have changed his mind in the past 24 hours?"

Harris, 21, has rejected an offer from the NZRL to travel with the team to England for the tournament. He will remain on standby to cover for injury.

Harris said: “As you would expect, I’m very disappointed not to be heading to the World Cup to represent my country, New Zealand."Asked about his Storm teammate's omission from the New Zealand squad on Thursday, Cameron Smith attempted to remain diplomatic, while conceding that Harris would be shattered.

"I think it's great that Sonny is playing in the World Cup. There's been a bit of talk about his selection but, as far as we're concerned, we just have to worry about ourselves," Smith told a press conference.

"I feel disappointed for Tohu on being withdrawn from their squad.

"He's going to be extremely disappointed. He's had a terrific season for us at Melbourne.

"He played for a few minutes in the Test at Canberra and he did well. But he is a young guy and will bounce back.

"But the New Zealand selectors have made their decision and it has nothing to do with us.

"But I completely understand their decision, he is a terrific player and it shows how badly they want to win this tournament."

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy added: "Obviously it’s hard on him. He was in the team and then out in 24 hours.

"But that is the decision the Kiwis have come to and nothing can change that now."

Williams declared his availability 24 hours after initially telling the NZRL he wouldn’t tour.

New Zealand will have a training base in France, where Williams is well known due to his rugby union stint with Toulon.

The grand final-winning forward took to Twitter on Wednesday to explain his decision.

"After a few tough seasons topped with an amazing one with the boys at the Roosters, I was faced with the opportunity to have a long awaited break and go on holiday with my family,” Williams said.

“Without thinking the whole situation through thoroughly, I eagerly jumped at the chance to chill out and rest.

“After having some time to really think about how much representing my country means to me, I decided then to put my name forward for selection.

“Now I know the squad is already picked and I can understand if I can’t be a part of it but I’m here and ready to help my brothers if they want me.”

Barnett told Fox Sports on Wednesday that Williams’ inclusion would help New Zealand’s bid for the World Cup.

"(Harris) now has to be exited out of the squad. My feelings on that is that it is not a nice thing to do,” Barnett said.

“Probably in some way he (Williams) has probably disrespected (the Kiwi squad) and we’ve just got to cop it on the head.

“Now it’s a hard decision to make but at the end of the day we are here to win a World Cup, not to please people on moralistic grounds.’’

Kiwi coach Steve Kearney, aware of Williams' stunning ability, had little choice but to cut Harris.

“Late on Tuesday, Sonny Bill Williams expressed his desire to play for the Kiwis in the Rugby League World Cup,’’ Kearney said.

‘’Our thinking had always been that if Sonny was available, he would be part of the team. We are now exploring options around Sonny’s possible inclusion in the tournament. This would require ratification by the World Cup organisers.”

The World Cup committee is delighted Williams will play, given his immense pulling power. New Zealand has tightened from $6 into $4.25 to win the event, according to TAB.

The Daily Telegraph
Powered by Blogger.