New Zealand

Sonny Bill Williams’ Canadian rugby league club set to make $1m payment to unpaid players

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Sonny Bill Williams was the Toronto Wolfpack's marquee signing for their shortlived Super League stint in 2020.

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Sonny Bill Williams was the Toronto Wolfpack’s marquee signing for their shortlived Super League stint in 2020.

Former Kiwis Sonny Bill Williams and Chase Stanley could be among the players to benefit from a potential settlement between their former Super League club Toronto Wolfpack and a British-based trade union.

According to various news reports, the Canadian club and the GMB Union are set to hold virtual talks on Wednesday (NZ time) with a possible $C1 million ($NZ1.1 million) agreement looming in the players’ unpaid wages case against the Wolfpack.

Toronto pulled out of the 2020 Super League season last July after six games after owner David Argyle reportedly experienced financial problems following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

Argyle stepped down and a new club management unsuccessfully sought reinstatement in the 2021 Super League competition.

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Sonny Bill Williams talks with his Toronto Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott after a Super League game against the Castleford Tigers.

George Wood/Getty Images

Sonny Bill Williams talks with his Toronto Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott after a Super League game against the Castleford Tigers.

Toronto were big spenders in their maiden season, with New Zealand dual code international Sonny Bill Williams their major marquee signing on a reported $10 million two-season contract.

England’s League Express newspaper reported that Argyle was “believed to have made a commitment to ensure that the club’s former players did receive some of the money they are owed”.

The Wolfpack players have now gone eight months without pay.

However, The Toronto Star reported on Monday (Tuesday NZ time) that a resolution could be in sight.

“We’ve had verbal offers, verbal promises (before) to settle the current wage bill before the club folds,” GMB Union official Peter Davies said in The Toronto Star. “But this time we’ve had it in writing from the owner and we’ve started writing legal documents to sign it off.”

“The good news is that there’s a substantial offer on the table,” he added. “It’s worth something like $1 million so that will clear the backlog.”

Sonny Bill Williams speaks as Bob Hunter, CEO of Toronto Wolfpack looks on, during a press conference in London in November 2019.

Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Sonny Bill Williams speaks as Bob Hunter, CEO of Toronto Wolfpack looks on, during a press conference in London in November 2019.

League Express reported that most of Toronto’s Super League squad now had contracts for the 2021 season, “though in many instances on less lucrative deals than what they’d signed for with the Canadian club”.

Former Warriors forward Bodene Thompson has joined the Leeds Rhinos, while ex-NRL players Ricky Leutele and Darcy Lussick have joined the Huddersfield Giants and Salford Red Devils, respectively.

However, League Express said four former Wolfpack players, Williams, Stanley, Josh McCrone and Tom Olbison, were still without clubs for 2021.

Williams, 35, joined the Wolfpack after the All Blacks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign. He had a short stint with his former NRL club, Sydney Roosters, after the Wolfpack went into recess.

Stanley, 31, signed for the Wolfpack in 2018 after 112 NRL games for the Dragons (twice), Storm and Bulldogs.

The Sydney-born backline utility had two tests for the Kiwis in 2007.

He scored two tries on the wing on his test debut, as an 18-year-old, in a 28-22 loss to Great Britain at Wigan, and also played in a 22-14 win over France in Paris.

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