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RugbyL: Williams moved to tears by world's best award

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Code-swapping star Sonny Bill Williams was reduced to tears after his Kiwi teammates performed an impromptu haka to show him respect at being named the world's best rugby league player.

Scooping the award marked a sensational return to the 13-man code after a five-year absence during which he played 19 Tests for the All Blacks to help them win the 2011 World Cup and also became New Zealand's heavyweight champion.

"I was a little bit teary up there, just seeing the brothers get up and show that respect," said Williams, who is an integral part of the Kiwi team that will bid to defend their Rugby League World Cup title against Australia on Saturday.

"I wouldn't say I was a world star but I've been very blessed to have been in quite a few amazing teams with some amazing players and amazing coaches.

"It's just been a blessed year, thank God. I accept this award on behalf of my team-mates that have put me in a position to play well, coaches and of course my family."

He added: "Hopefully, like I said to them straight away, I said, one more week, and hopefully I can put in another strong performance for the brothers and hopefully we can do it for the Kiwis."

Williams' initial departure from the NRL's Cantebury Bulldogs for Toulon in the French Top 14 was smeared in controversy, and the Sydney Roosters second-rower's reputation went into a nosedive in Australia and New Zealand.

He said his return to league had been all about earning that respect which he had lost.

"I wasn't really teary until I saw the boys do the haka. That means the world to me. All I want is respect and I felt after the way I left the game I lost a lot of respect," Williams told New Zealand's ONE news.

"But this year just the way I tried to carry myself, I just tried to get across the real me, and I felt like I earned a lot of respect.

"But the biggest thing for me was earning the respect of my fellow players and coaches and I think that was why I was a little bit emotional."

The 28-year-old Muslim is the first Kiwi to win the International Player of the Year award, which has been won by Australian players since its inception in 2008 - Billy Slater (2008, 2011), Jarryd Hayne (2009), Todd Carney (2010) and Cameron Smith (2012).

He beat off competition from Kangaroos star Greg Inglis and Scotland playmaker Danny Brough to win the award.

"I probably haven't won a lot of awards but definitely it's always nice to be recognised, and such a massive award like this - I was quite shocked, to be honest, but it was just a nice feeling to be recognised," Williams said.

But looming on the weekend is the final against Australia at Old Trafford, Williams saying: "I'd give every award back in a heartbeat just to get across the line this weekend."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131128/rugbyl-williams-moved-tears-worlds-best-award