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Sonny Bill calls for more diversity in NRL administration

FILE PHOTO: Rugby League - Super League - Leeds Rhinos v Toronto Wolfpack - Headingley Sta

MELBOURNE Sonny Bill Williams has called for more diversity in Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL), where minorities dominate playing rosters but have comparatively little representation in administration.

Williams, who has returned to Australia to take up a short-term deal with champions Sydney Roosters, called on prominent NRL figure Phil Gould to promote Pacific islanders and Indigenous Australians in his recently announced role as a consultant at the New Zealand Warriors.

“I just try to look at things from a perspective of what’s best for my people — Polynesians, Maoris, Aboriginals, the minorities,” New Zealander Williams, whose father is Samoan, told Gould in an interview on Channel Nine late on Monday.

“I’d love to see you take someone under your wing and help us thrive, not just on the field ... obviously we’re thriving in that sense.

“What I would like to challenge you to do is help us thrive off the field, whether it be coaches, CEOs or on the boards, that type of level.”

More than half of NRL players have Pasifika, Indigenous Australian or Maori heritage but none of the 18 teams’ head coaches have those backgrounds.

The NRL regularly champions its diversity policy and said last year more than 50 of its staff identified as being of Indigenous Australian heritage, yet few occupy positions in senior management.

Dual code international Williams, who won two World Cups with New Zealand’s rugby union team, returned to Australia with his family after being released by the Toronto Wolfpack.

The 35-year-old said he could not see himself heading back to his native New Zealand for more professional football.

“I consider Australia a home even probably more so than New Zealand as far as raising the kids and what-not,” he said.

“I’m a realist. I’m 35, I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I reckon I’ve got maybe one more year max in me.”