July 21, 2020 / 7:58 AM / 25 days ago

New Zealand Warriors keen on Sonny Bill after Wolfpack withdrawal

SYDNEY (Reuters) - New Zealand Warriors have expressed an interest in signing Sonny Bill Williams on a short-term deal if the dual code international heads Down Under after being released by the Toronto Wolfpack.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby League - Super League - Salford Red Devils v Toronto Wolfpack - AJ Bell Stadium, Salford, Britain - February 8, 2020 Toronto Wolfpack's Sonny Bill Williams in action Action Images/Ed Sykes/File Photo

The Toronto team withdraw on Monday from the August restart of Super League Europe due to financial challenges from the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving marquee recruit Williams free to find a club in Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL).

The reigning champion Sydney Roosters, who Williams helped to the title in 2013, are likely to be first in the queue having lost a couple of key players to injury since the league resumed at the end of May.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George, though, said his side would also be interested in bringing the 34-year-old former Kiwis forward to the Auckland-based club.

“We’re in a position where obviously we’re going to require players and if Sonny Bill Williams becomes available, of course, we’re going to look at how it could happen,” he told NRL.com.

“We’ll reach out for sure to try and understand the situation, we’re already looking for loan players so imagine if it came off?

“The stars would have to be aligned, and I don’t know if and when Sonny could even get to Australia. But we’d be mad not to ask the question.”

The Warriors, the only NRL team based outside Australia, were forced to leave New Zealand in early May to undergo two weeks of isolation before the league resumed.

Four of their players will return home at the end of July to reunite with their families, leaving the squad with a manpower shortage compounded by a slew of injuries.

Williams, who won the rugby union World Cup twice with the All Blacks, would have to undergo two weeks of quarantine with his family if he returns to New Zealand, and again if he subsequently crosses the Tasman Sea to play for an NRL team.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford

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