SBW to rise above big hits from rivals

Sydney Roosters players expect rival teams to continue to target Sonny Bill Williams but have warned that the global superstar will only get better with more game time.

Williams was solid in his first NRL game for six years, playing 14 minutes off the bench in a win over Canberra on Saturday night.

He made the most of his time on the field with 37 metres from seven runs, an offload and six tackles.

Williams also copped heavy punishment from Canberra players, who went out of their way to land a big hit on the former World Cup-winning All Black.

Roosters centre Joey Manu has no doubts that opposition sides will continue to hunt down SBW.

“I think everyone will like playing against Sonny, so everyone will want to go after him,” Manu said.

“He went well on the weekend, so I’m looking forward to playing a few more games with him.”

Manu has achieved a lot in his young career, including consecutive premierships, but he rates running out with Williams alongside his finest achievements.

“Oh, it’s up there,” said Manu, who idolised SBW as kid growing up in Hamilton, New Zealand.

“It was pretty cool.

“He is someone I used to watch, so to play next to him was pretty crazy to be in the sheds and seeing him across from me.

“He is a good guy. At training he has been awesome, especially for the young boys.”

Sonny Bill Williams takes a hit-up against the Raiders. Picture. Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia

Roosters co-captain Boyd Cordner was impressed with Williams’ first stint, but he knows he still has plenty left in his 35-year-old tank.

“He will be better for the run,” Cordner said.

“I think match fitness comes with it, but I thought he was really good in the short stint that he had.

“He brought a lot of impact and energy. I think you can see that he has still got it. He has been out for a while coming back from overseas and having surgery, so he is still finding his feet and his lungs.”

Cordner believes the Roosters are perfectly placed for a three-peat heading into the back-end of the season.

The Tricolours will aim to continue their momentum when they host Newcastle at the SCG on Saturday night.

The Knights look set to rest star fullback Kalyn Ponga after he copped a series of big hits against Cronulla.

Cordner knows Ponga is a significant loss for Newcastle but insists that his absence won’t change the Roosters’ preparation.

“I suppose if you take Kalyn Ponga out of any team, it is going to leave a pretty big hole,” he said.

“We are focusing on ourselves, but that is up to them however they want to attack the end of the year and get the best out of their players coming into the back-end.

“That is their decision and it isn’t going to change the way we turn up to play.”

Cordner is also wary of a Newcastle side coached by former Roosters assistant Adam O’Brien – who helped the Tricolours claim the 2019 premiership.

“When we won the comp with Adam, it was hard to see him go,” he said.

“But he has his own dreams and aspirations and that was to be a head coach.

“He took the opportunity at Newcastle, and they are going really for him at the moment.”

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