29 Jul 2008

Warning of NRL exodus

6:00 am on 29 July 2008

As if Sonny Bill Williams fleeing the National Rugby League wasn't enough of a headache, players are apparently queueing up to join him in deserting the NRL.

In a stunning claim, player manager Steve Gillis says that he's fielded "half a dozen" calls since the weekend calls from players interested in overseas oppoprtunities.

Williams's weekend escape to the Fench rugby union may only be the tip of the iceberg.

Gillis says NRL stars are becoming increasingly aware of the riches on offer in the northern hemisphere.

Williams is believed to have been offered a two-year contract with Toulon worth over $3 million, where he would join former Penrith skipper Craig Gower, St George Illawarra centre Mark Gasnier and Panthers winger Luke Rooney in the French rugby union next season.

But Toulon have again denied any knowledge of Williams joining them.

Gillis says the exodus is going to be a big problem. The European unions are looking for the very best NRL players and will knock them off one by one.

He says if Sonny Bill Williams is allowed to walk out on his contract and there's no rearguard action, he expects other players will want to follow suit as there are 28 clubs in the world that players can make money playing league at - but in union, there are hundreds.