Nate Myles’ likely departure from the Sydney Roosters, and the impending retirement of prop Jason Ryles, has cleared the way for last year’s grand finalists to launch a stunning bid to lure Sonny Bill Williams back to the NRL, possibly next year but more likely in 2013.
The Australian understands the Roosters have made discreet inquiries with Williams over the prospects of a rugby league comeback – three years after he walked out on the Bulldogs mid-season to play rugby union in France.
Under the terms of his eventual release from Canterbury, Williams, whose contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union expires at the end of this year’s World Cup, was banned from playing for another club in the NRL before 2013.
Bulldogs officials made it clear that the only way they would relent on that agreement was if they were paid a release fee.
Given that agreement, and the fact no NRL club including the Roosters is likely to have the money to compete with rugby union until the game’s broadcasting deal is renegotiated for the 2013 season, a more realistic scenario would see the 25-year-old head to France for one final pay-day before returning to the NRL.
The Roosters shape as serious contenders should Williams decide his future lies in rugby league, although they are likely to face strong competition from Parramatta, where New Zealand national coach Steve Kearney is in charge.
By 2013, the Roosters and Eels could be in prime position to make Williams one of the highest-paid players in the history of the NRL. The first piece of the jigsaw will be the television deal, which could see the game’s salary cap rise as high as $6 million.
Should the NRL and its clubs receive the windfall many are predicting, the Roosters could afford to pay Williams upwards of $1m a season with the prospect of even more should third parties weigh in.
The second piece of the puzzle is Myles. The Queensland forward has already held talks with the Gold Coast over his future and The Australian understands he is also in the sights of Newcastle and Parramatta.
Although he has a contract for next season at the Roosters, it is understood he has been negotiating with rival clubs on the basis that he can join them in 2012 .
The Titans’ ability to sign Myles next year will be contingent on whether Anthony Laffranchi decides to take up a new deal or accept a mega-offer from English club St Helens.
Ryles is also weighing up whether to return next season. Although he has an option in his contract, there has been speculation he could retire at the end of this year.
The final wild-card is five-eighth Todd Carney. Carney has a contract for the next two seasons but is currently in the hands of medical experts.
The Roosters have also been linked to Williams’ former New Zealand teammate Adam Blair, but it is understood they are not realistic contenders for the Melbourne forward.
Instead, Parramatta and Wests Tigers are leading the race for Blair, although the Tigers could find it hard to make room for him.