Sonny Bill Williams has turned his back on the richest contract in rugby union history to pursue his dream of playing for the All Blacks at next year's Rugby World Cup.
Williams, who has been starring for Toulon in France's Top 14 competition after walking out on the NRL's Bulldogs two years ago, will return to New Zealand after his June 30 fight on the undercard of close friend Anthony Mundine's KO To Drugs promotion in Brisbane and is expected to play his first match on home soil just weeks later.
An official announcement will be made early this week, although the 24-year-old is still undecided about which provincial and Super 15 teams he will link with during his 18-month contract with the NZRU.
According to sources close to his family in New Zealand, the catalyst behind Williams' decision was his mother, Lee, who lives in Auckland.
After helping pack his bags to move to Sydney nine years ago as the Bulldogs' youngest ever recruit, she told Williams: "It's time to come home Sonny. Come home and prove that you can be an All Black."
We've got mixed feelings on this. Williams is a talented footballer, but is still somewhat unproven in rugby. But if he is a success at provincial level, and if he gets the right coaching and encouragement, he could potentially be a game-breaker, and the cupboard is pretty bare in that department looking towards 2011.
And where will he contract? Canterbury has shown a high degree of interest, but when we read that both he and his partner have family in Auckland, we wonder if the Tana Umaga factor will tilt the scales in Counties' favour. That's where we'd like to see him play.