Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams Getty Images

Gamble pays premiership-sized dividends

IN THE rugby league corridors of power Roosters godfather Nick Politis is considered the most influential and well-connected man in the game.

His City Ford car dealership, in 1976, became the first NRL jersey sponsor and ever since he has endeavored to be an innovator.

Politis has been chairman of the Roosters since 1993, and has reigned over some tough times, and some prosperous times.

But this, his 20th year as head honcho at Bondi, may well be noted as his best.

Not only did Politis take a massive punt on a coach with virtually no profile, he signed one who had played just four games of NRL-level football.

Trent Robinson was an appointment completely from left field and categorically not of the ilk the Roosters had previously employed during the reign of chairman Politis.

While the likes of Mark Murray, Hugh McGahan and Russell Fairfax didn't bring overwhelming coaching CVs with them to Bondi, they were household rugby league names.

The Roosters are better known for employing the likes of Arthur Beetson, Bob Fulton, Graham Murray, Phil Gould, Ricky Stuart, Brad Fittler, Chris Anderson and Brian Smith, each of whom had varying degrees of success as head coaches.

Robinson was a total bolt from the blue.

His two-year stint at France-based Super League club Catalans was clearly noteworthy, but the imprimatur to his appointment as head coach was a one-year stint as Roosters assistant to Brian Smith in 2010.

That was the year they last played in a grand final before last night, and it was also the season a rookie coach impressed a group of young players enough to earn the seal of approval from the godfather.

To win a premiership, a minor premiership and Dally M coach of the year gong in a rookie season in the NRL - where the heat of battle is so intense - is an incredible feat.

But to have convinced Politis 12 months earlier that he was the man for the job was an even greater achievement by the very likeable Robinson.

And, as luck would have it for Robinson, the salary of the coach is exempt from salary cap constraints, so now he can be paid what he deserves and not the relatively paltry $250,000 base he received this year.

If Ricky Stuart, who took the Eels to a wooden spoon, is being paid the reported $1 million a season at Canberra, Robinson is obviously in for a bonus.

The other stroke of genius by the Roosters supremo was bringing back Sonny Bill Williams to the NRL - on a handshake deal.

It's a toss-up if SBW or the coach made the biggest impression on the NRL.

Irrespective, the godfather has triumphed.

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