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05th Nov 2015

Friend reveals how Islam helped Sonny Bill Williams become the rugby hero he is today

Change of perspective

Patrick McCarry

The hype train will move on but, for now, Sonny Bill Williams is the most loved rugby player in the world. Dan Carter is not far behind. Richie McCaw? Let’s not get carried away.

By now you’ve heard about teh All Black star giving his winners’ medal away to teenager Charlie Lines at the World Cup final. Since then, Williams joined four of his New Zealand teammates to visit the grave of fallen All Blacks comrade Jerry Collins.

Williams turned 30 this year but he has displayed a level head and sense of innate sportsmanship from his mid 20s on.

Charlie Lines after Sonny Bill Williams gave him his winning medal 31/10/2015

Before that positive news, Williams drew a lot of criticism for walking out on the Bulldogs (and rugby league) for a lucrative Toulon contract. Just 23-years-old at the time, Williams was one of the biggest stars in the NRL and only 18 months into a five-year deal.

His switch provoked vitriol from many league fans. The same supporters were none to pleased with a last-minute U-turn Williams made to play for New Zealand in the 2010 Rugby League World Cup.

Union fans, on the other hand, often grumbled when Williams went to Japan to big-spending Panasonics, returned to league with Sydney Roosters and pursued a professional boxing career.

While it may have looked, to some on the outside, that Williams was unsettled, he claims that the next challenge was always his driving motivation.

One of Williams’ closest friends, Australian boxer Anthony Mundine, believes his 2008 conversion to Islam has been the making of him.

Mundine told New Zealand publiction Stuff, “Everyone’s quick to judge when somebody’s in the spotlight. He went through times when he was young and made bad mistakes but who doesn’t?

“But then he changed his life around and found Islam … and it’s been nothing but serenity for him now.”

Sonny Bill Williams Training Session

In 2013, Williams spoke with CNN about becoming ‘a true Muslim’. He commented:

“It’s made me become content as a man, and helped me to grow. I’ve just got faith in it and it has definitely helped me become the man I am today.”

Mundine, who is also Muslim, was not surprised by his friend’s selfless gesture at Twickenham.

He said, “Sonny’s always been like that. He’s always been kind hearted, always been generous – people just don’t see that side.

“From the media, especially in Australia, they can paint any picture they want to paint. But I’ve known Sonny for a long time and he’s always been nothing but respectful and humble.”