Sonny Bill Williams has been named the world’s best player ahead of New Zealand’s World Cup final against Australia to cap a sensational return to rugby league.
Williams took the Rugby League International Federation player of the year award in Manchester on Wednesday, beating out Australia’s Greg Inglis and Scotland’s Danny Brough.
The 28-year-old returned to the code after five years in rugby union, during which he gained 19 caps for the All Blacks, to help the Sydney Roosters to the NRL premiership.
New Zealand face Australia in Saturday’s final at Old Trafford, and Williams will be looking to continue his devastating form.
After receiving the award, Williams was given an impromptu haka by his teammates, which moved him to tears.
“That was definitely by far the best part of the night for me,” Williams said. “I can’t remember the last time I cried but I was a little bit teary up there just seeing the brothers get up and show that respect.
“All I want is respect. I felt like after the way I left the game I lost a lot of respect but this year the way I tried to carry myself, just tried to get across the real me, I felt like I earned a lot of respect.”
For the last five years Australia have enjoyed a monopoly on the award, which was established in 2007, with victories for Billy Slater (2008, 2011), Jarryd Hayne (2009), Todd Carney (2010) and Cameron Smith (2012).
Williams was also named in the team of the year at The Lowry Hotel, along with fellow Kiwis Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke.
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