Veteran journalist and former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons has laughed off the hype surrounding the return of sporting sensation Sonny Bill Williams to the NRL.

After the COVID-19 pandemic prematurely ended his season with the Toronto Wolfpack in the Super League, Williams made his long-awaited NRL comeback on Saturday during the Sydney Roosters’ victory over the Canberra Raiders.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson finally injected Williams with 22 minutes remaining in his return game — the 35-year-old lasted 14 minutes with seven runs for 37 metres, six tackles and one offload.

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On Sunday, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Williams’ return had generated a staggering $32 million worth of syndicated publicity.

However, FitzSimons bluntly refuted the report on Channel 9’s Sports Sunday, which he labelled “absolute nonsense”.

“$32 million? I wonder if that was the same bloke who calculated that 100 million were going to watching around the globe,” FitzSimons said on Sunday morning.

“There was a brilliant piece written on this in the Herald yesterday, as a matter of fact, I wrote it. The Super Bowl gets 30 million from outside the United States as a global audience, and we were seriously asked to believe that 100 million people were watching a 36-year-old come off the bench for 13 minutes in a regulation league game?

“Cooper Cronk, who was commentating for Fox, he said, ‘If I was in the opposition, I’d say run at Sonny Bill’. To his professional eyes, he looked at Sonny Bill and presumably saw a weakness.

“It’s absolute nonsense! $32 million? I wonder how they calculated that? Nonsense.”

But he was firmly put in his place by former Australian netball captain Liz Ellis. “It’s bad enough having to read your columns, let alone you read them to us,” Ellis said.

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The Roosters comfortably won Saturday’s match 18-6 and climbed to third spot on the NRL ladder.

After the game, Williams praised teammate James Tedesco and ranked him among the best athletes he’s seen around the world.

“(He’s) right up there,” Williams told Fox League.

“When it comes to Teddy, I didn’t know what to expect, obviously one of the best players in the world for the last few years. Just his demeanour, the way he approaches the game, he’s a pretty kick back chill kind of guy, but I’ve had some really deep interesting conversations with him, so a lot more than meets the eye with Teddy.”

For their next fixture, Sydney will face the Newcastle Knights on Saturday evening at the SCG.

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