'Sonny Bill Williams has always been a special talent... even in school'

Sonny Bill Williams is switching codes again
Sonny Bill Williams is switching codes again

Thomas Leuluai knows all about the impact Sonny Bill Williams can have on a team - they first played alongside each other at high school.

And the Wigan halfback is thrilled his former New Zealand team-mate will be ripping it up in Super League next season.

Toronto Wolfpack made a bombshell statement of their ambitions by signing Williams on a two-year deal.

It means one of the biggest names in world rugby - of either code - will be playing for the promoted outfit, who visit the DW Stadium on February 13.

Williams, 34, may have been playing for the All Blacks until last month but he is well known in rugby league circles for his exploits with Canterbury Bulldogs, Sydney Roosters and the Kiwis.

And Leuluai's link goes further back, having first played alongside him at Mount Albert Grammar School as teenagers.

"We went to school together, and you knew then he could do something special," said Leuluai, back in pre-season training with the Warriors.

"I think we were 13 when he played for the school's first-team alongside 17-year-olds and smashed it.

"He got picked up by the Bulldogs quickly, he left New Zealand quite early.

"I played against him through the grades and I was lucky enough to play alongside him for the Kiwis together, so I've known him for a long time and we chat every now and then.

"It'll be good to have him in our competition.

"He's a global superstar, of league and union, and we're really lucky to have him because I'm sure he'd have had a few options."

Toronto, bankrolled by millionaire David Argyle, have made no secret of the fact they hope Williams will have a similar effect as David Beckham's move to LA Galaxy.

But Leuluai says his capture will give the Wolfpack more than a drawcard ahead of their first campaign in Super League.

"Sonny is a phenomenal athlete," he said. "He's obviously very talented, he can do things others can't do, but what sets him aside is he has the work ethic and dedication.

"He's tough, he's competitive, he lives the right lifestyle.

"I've seen a lot of talented players but sometimes they lack a bit of discipline or hard work, whereas with him, you get the whole package.

"To be honest he probably doesn't have to work as hard as he does but I guarantee you'll hear stories from Toronto players saying about how hard he trains and how professional he is.

"And that's something that will stay at the club - he'll be a benefit to the club off the field, with his discipline."

Toronto are taking advantage of the marquee player allowance to get Williams on board, in a deal that is expected to make him the highest-paid player in the history of either code.

Leuluai says the expectations and focus will not burden him.

"Not at all, he's had that his whole career, he's played All Blacks - that won't bother him one bit," he added.