On Saturday night Sonny Bill Williams shouldered someone in the head, and apparently it was rugby league’s fault.
That, bizarrely, was the logic employed by at least two writers from New Zealand’s two largest media organisations, along with numerous fans, in the wake of Williams becoming the first All Black in 50 years to be shown a red card.
A momentary lapse of concentration? No. A decision clouded by red mist? Nope. Poor technique perhaps gone unnoticed or unfixed in what equates to seven-odd years as a union player? Yeah, right mate.
Out of all the possible reasons for SBW’s indiscretion, some chose to blame a sport he hasn’t played since the end of 2014.
Not only has he not produced a play-the-ball in more than two and a half years, but the NRL outlawed the shoulder charge at the end of 2012, meaning it wasn’t an accepted practice for the entirety of Williams’ second spell in rugby league from 2013-2014.
“It was the tackle of a man who still hasn’t got the violent stupidity of rugby league out of his system.” https://t.co/l1f3rEhmmY
— Ger Gilroy (@gergilroy) July 1, 2017
— JB (@jonobasile) July 1, 2017
But still, just before the 25th minute at Westpac Stadium, in the split-second he had to think about how to make contact with a falling Anthony Watson, who was already being taken to ground, the theory is that Williams decided to cast his mind back to some time prior to 2009 and employ a trick he learnt exclusively in that other code.
Love Kiwi commentators blaming rugby league and not, you know, Sonny Bill Williams for the tackle.
— Rhodri Guest (@mysensibleone) July 1, 2017
Sonny Bill Williams June 2017 ‘awesome, wonderful player, etc etc,
Sonny Bill Williams July 2017
“Rugby League Thug”
— Mark Hesketh (@saintesky) July 1, 2017
“Former Rugby League star Sonny Bill Williams” – NZ press, tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/CxfDblMNYV
— Tom Read (@traread) July 1, 2017
If you hadn’t already guessed or heard, the All Blacks lost on Saturday night, going down 24-21 to a dogged British and Irish Lions side, who deserved credit for their performance in their second to last game of a tour where they have been attacked and ridiculed consistently by sections of fans and New Zealand media.
Rather than praise, many looked for any reason other than the actual play on the field as to why the All Blacks lost.
The easiest thing for those people was to blame the big bloke wearing No.12 and a rival code he used to play.
Sonny Bill Williams committed foul play. Sonny Bill Williams used to play rugby league. Sonny Bill Williams committed foul play because he used to play rugby league. Simple.
Curse the 13-man game, bringing thuggery to union since 1908. Or something like that.
Media in New Zealand is blaming Sonny Bill Williams’ background in Rugby League for his red card for the #AllBlacks. Do you agree?
— EatSleepRugby (@eatsleeprugby) July 2, 2017
It’s not all bad news though.
Sir Colin Meads was the last All Black to be sent from the field prior to Saturday night, way back in 1967. By the logic employed by those who blame Williams’ sending off on league, we can deduce that somehow this means Sonny Bill Williams is now as good as Sir Colin Meads was.
A silver lining from a horrid winter night in July 2017 when rugby league ultimately made the All Blacks lose a Test.