Twelve years have passed since Sonny Bill Williams walked out on Canterbury with no notice, and while the disappointment has surpassed, the memories remain.
Former Bulldogs forward Brad Morrin still has clear recollections of the day SBW shocked the league world by leaving mid-season for France in 2008.
At the time SBW was painted as the villain, leaving without telling his teammates. But Morrin has revealed he took a personal phone call from Williams only days after he walked out on the Dogs.
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“When Sonny spoke to me, he just sounded like an apologetic young kid,” recalled Morrin, who played 56 games for Canterbury between 2005-2011.
“There was a lot of remorse from him, but I don’t think there was regret.
“It (leaving) Canterbury had to be done, not so much from a club point of view, but the shackles that he had in his contract to what he had become as opposed to when he signed.
“I just got that feeling that the change in management, he felt he had to get out of the contract.
“When Sonny spoke to me, I didn’t have any ill feelings towards him.
“I just thought it must have been quite an intimidating scenario for a young bloke to not only do that publicly but also to go into the unknown overseas.”
Now given reflection and perspective, Morrin believes Williams’s infamous walkout on Canterbury highlighted how he had his sights set on bigger things, even though he could have handled his departure from Belmore better.
But he was fortunate to speak to SBW himself to gain an understanding of the bigger picture.
“Sonny was young, and a lot of his contract stuff was taken out of his hands, so I never held anything against him in that regard – in fact I felt sorry for him a bit,” he said.
“As a bloke and a man, I think he would have liked for it to go down a different way.
“None of it would have sat well with him, and I don’t think he got any pleasure out of it.
“But now that he has gone and achieved all over the world, and in different sports, you can see he was trying to maximise his professional capabilities.
“If he ended up being a journeyman that travelled around to just get cash and wasn’t delivering, then that might have been a different story.
“But I think Sonny is entitled to any opportunity he gets because he has manufactured it through his own hard work.”
On Saturday night, Morrin has a spot on his family lounge saved for Williams’ NRL return when the Roosters travel to Canberra to take on the Raiders.
He can’t wait to watch his former teammate run around and has no doubts that he is physically ready to handle the NRL at age 35.
In fact, Morrin always knew that SBW was destined to become a dual international sensation after witnessing his work ethic when he suffered a similar knee injury at Canterbury.
“I got to see Sonny in rehab and train – he was ruthless with everything he did,” he said.
“If the physio gave us eight reps to do – I’d sneak in nine – but SBW would always go and do another one to stay ahead of me.
“Over that 12 months of rehabilitation, we ended up secretly putting on more weight so we could make the other bloke feel bad.
“That is when I really became a fan of Sonny.
“I remember if I played reserve grade, I’d always have a quick shower so I could rush out and watch Sonny play in the NRL.
“I’ve got a lot of admiration for him.”