Former NSW five-eighth James Maloney believes the arrival of his ex-Sydney Roosters team-mate Sonny Bill Williams to Super League will attract rugby union fans to the game.
Maloney is among a host of high-profile NRL recruits for the 25th season of Super League, with the likes of England internationals George Burgess and Gareth Widdop set to boost Wigan and Warrington respectively.
But it is newly-promoted Toronto Wolfpack’s capture of the two-time World Cup-winning All Black Williams that has caught most attention.
Although Williams played in a Rugby League World Cup final and won NRL Grand Finals with Canterbury and the Roosters, Maloney says his rugby success will provide a major draw card for Super League.
Maloney, who played alongside Williams in the Roosters team that beat Manly in the 2013 Grand Final, was speaking at a Catalans press conference in Perpignan.
“It’s obviously great that so many players are coming over,” Maloney said.
“I think the stronger the competition, the more it attracts fans and all that sort of thing.
“Sonny coming over, especially to Europe where it’s quite rugby union- dominated, will bring the attraction of rugby union fans.
“I’m sure wherever he goes, rugby union fans will come to rugby league games to watch Sonny and check it out.
“I think that’s so good for the sport and hopefully we can grow the game like that.”
Maloney’s arrival at Super League’s French outpost coincides with the elevation of Toronto to the top flight, which the former Kangaroos star believes can help rugby league make a major breakthrough.
The presence of the Canadian outfit means plenty of travel for European clubs but that will be only a minor inconvenience for Maloney, who spent three seasons in Auckland with the Warriors.
“It’s exciting to be able to go to Canada,” he said. “It will probably be a difficult challenge.
“I’ve never travelled that distance for a game, with the time difference and all that, but we’ve only got to do it once this year, Toronto have got to…