Sonny Bill Williams vows to fight $4 million mosque rejection

Georges River Council said the proposal was rejected, in part, due to noise concerns. That is something Williams finds difficult to accept.

“Whether the real reason why I didn’t get it through was due to us being Muslims; I mean, God knows, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep pursuing those opportunities for our people,” he said.

“So, for me, it was more than just a masjid [mosque]. Like I said, it was about starting my own charity, non-profit organisation, because that’s something that I’m really passionate about.

“Starting up a gym … we could have business people going in and working out as well and having classes where they can mix and mingle with some of the youth because, for me, how I grew up, one of the things that I struggled with was I didn’t see anyone in a position of power or influence. I saw gang members. Isaw people with low-income jobs. You get stuck in that situation. I feel like they [business people] can help … they can motivate youth as well.

“So, it’s unfortunate that it didn’t come to fruition. We’re not going to stop, we’re going to keep going and keep trying.”

Culture war

Jack de Belin’s long-awaited first media interview got swamped by some big news stories, but there are things that need to be said. It’s worth noting it took place without a sponsors backdrop and that only male journalists were present.

The interview was raw but incomplete. His lack of remorse for what happened to the young woman in the matter was based on his unshakeable belief that he did nothing wrong.


De Belin and Callan Sinclair were charged with the sexual assault of a then 19-year-old woman in a Wollongong unit in 2018. They pleaded not guilty to all charges. In May 2021, the pair were found not guilty on one charge and the jury could not make a majority decision on the other five. After two juries were unable to reach verdicts in two trials, the charges were dropped when the DPP said it would not pursue a third trial.

De Belin’s tears in the interview for his partner were genuine, but we will never see the pain he caused to the woman he was involved with on the night. We never heard him answer questions about what he called a “standard bun” (slang for group sex) in a text conversation with NSW teammate Angus Crichton. That reflects horribly on de Belin and the attitude of a sport to women if that behaviour is considered “standard”. It’s sad to think that this kind of attitude exists.

The interview was largely unscripted – he had a one-hour session with a media expert and was given tips before fronting a select group of journalists – but the words were his. It was smart by the Dragons to get his first public comments out of the way before the season starts, so they can start their campaign without the shadow of his silence hanging over it.

Their view is it gives de Belin public closure. But, unfortunately, there are still other people living with the pain caused by an evening that was anything but standard.

Para-dise lost

Parramatta are in their best position to win a competition for the past three decades, but there is a concern about what lies beneath the first-grade squad.
It’s not something publicly talked about but, according to the NRL’s official figures, the Eels are No.3 in junior participation and have been since 2021. The top five are: Penrith and District Junior Rugby League, Cronulla-Sutherland District Rugby Football League, Parramatta Junior Rugby League, Western Suburbs Junior Rugby League and Manly Junior District Rugby League.


There will be spin applied as to why, but they are the official figures. It’s amazing the junior powerhouse has now slipped to No.3. If you are a frustrated Eels fan, still traumatised by the club’s 35-year premiership drought, consider some of these players that got away, who have played key roles at other teams:
James Maloney (2013 and 2016 premiership winner with the Roosters and Sharks) – Wentworthville Magpies player who was not signed by Parramatta;
Luke Keary (2014, 2018 and 2019 premiership winner) – Hills District Bulls player not signed by the Eels;
Paul Gallen (2016 premiership winner with Cronulla) – Wentworthville and Eels junior not signed by Parramatta;
Daniel Tupou (2013, 2018 and 2019 premiership winner) – Guildford and Eels junior not signed by Parramatta;
Ryan Papenhuyzen (2020 premiership winner) – Hills Bulls player not signed by the Eels.
The following have played in the Eels’ junior or senior competitions: Keary, Josh Schuster and Brian To’o (Wentworthville Magpies), Addin Fonua-Blake (Hills Bulls), Stefano Utoikamanu (Cabramatta), Tupou, Papenhuyzen, Jason Saab (Merrylands), Taniela Paseka (Fairfield Pats), Alex Twal, Tui Kamikamica, Josh Aloiai and the list goes on.

Crusher tackle

A section of Michael Chammas’ deep dive into the Bulldogs has caused a considerable stir at Manly. It surrounds the role of former Sea Eagles great Noel “Crusher” Cleal. He is responsible for recruiting and identifying talent, but when he was at the Dogs, then chair Ray Dib singled him out when discussing the loss of faith in CEO Raelene Castle and her judgment when it came to then coach Des Hasler.

“She wanted to extend Des 22 months out from his contract end date,” Dib said. “She also wanted to extend Cleal’s contract when it was clear to all of us he was struggling to develop any players into first graders. He didn’t reach any of his KPIs in four years. Des begged me to keep Cleal on board and Raelene backed him, but the board had lost trust in her judgment by then.”

Des Hasler’s trusted talent scout Noel Cleal.

Des Hasler’s trusted talent scout Noel Cleal.Credit:NRL Photos

There are Manly elements also questioning Cleal. His colleague, Scott Fulton, has either discovered or recruited the majority of their top-30 players. I’ve been told Cleal’s big move was getting Andrew Davey. He’s whole-hearted but not a big player in the Manly machine.

Cleal is a long-time Hasler favourite, so it will be interesting to see if he’s challenged.

Bryce’s X-factor

Remember the very sad story of “Miss X”, the woman who was pregnant with Bryce Cartwright’s child before negotiating a payout with the Panthers in 2016. She worked for Channel Seven before heading overseas. She is now back in Sydney and dating a recently retired NRL player. Cartwright is aware she is living in Sydney again, but has moved on and has resurrected his career, to a large degree, after a terrible time off the field and on it.

Brent bounces back

Brent Naden has taken some significant steps since he was found to have taken cocaine before the 2020 grand final. He’s been getting professional help and working on himself with partner Eden. He will also become a dad in the next few weeks and got engaged last week. “I know I let down a lot of people … and I also want to prove a lot of people wrong,” he said. “I’m grateful for the chance at the Bulldogs and I’m so lucky to have Eden’s support. She was there for me in my darkest hours.”

All-star flood relief

Johnathan Thurston has inspired the Nine commentators to help raise funds for those hit hard by the floods in NSW and Queensland. He has secured support from Billy Slater, Andrew Johns, Cameron Smith, Brad Fittler, Darren Lockyer, Sam Thaiday, Paul Gallen and Greg Inglis. The place to go and bid is

Stream the NRL premiership 2022 live and free on 9Now.

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