They booed him when he warmed up. They booed him when his name was read out before the game.
They even booed him when he finally took the field in the 58th minute. Then they cheered loudly when three defenders drove him backwards with his first hit-up before he slipped an offload.
The Sonny Bill Williams show rolled into Canberra on a chilly Saturday night.
It had been 2171 days since his last game in the NRL, but Williams certainly knows how to still generate some insane interest.
His highly anticipated return lasted 13 minutes, featured four runs for 23m and five tackles as a middle forward. There was a brief moment he even looked like he could have scored had Freddy Lussick thrown him the ball close to the line.
Williams would have slept well on the bus ride home. He was so puffed after a few minutes he could not bring himself to congratulate James Tedesco just a few metres away when he scored his second try.
You would expect there will be a few more minutes again when the Roosters host Newcastle next Saturday night,.
His sheer presence will do wonders for the Roosters’ morale as they chase a rare title three-peat.
Their 18-6 win over the Raiders was dominant. Only bad luck will toss the premiers out of a top-four spot.
It was a fitting result for Josh Morris, who celebrated his 300th game.
If Williams was the drawcard – and Morris the sentimental favourite – Tedesco was the star act. He bagged a double and ran for more than 200m with 13 tackle busts.
He is the player opposition teams will truly fear in the countdown to October.
Tedesco was only starting out the last time Williams was in the game. Tedesco is the new Bondi King.
Williams labelled Tedesco as ”one of the best players in the world the past few years”.
Angus Crichton was also excellent in his comeback game from a knee injury. There is no way he will be making his way out of the side to accommodate Williams in coming weeks. The only reason coach Trent Robinson might be tempted to toss him was his questionable new hairstyle.
Canberra did well to match it with the visitors in the first half, but will be sweating on scans to their own hero Josh Papalii.
Papalii clutched at his shoulder midway through the first half and did not return after the break. They will need him during the finals.
Papalii idolised Williams growing up, posed for photos with him on several occasions over the years, and made a point of being one of the first people to greet the man wearing the Roosters’ No. 17 jersey after the game.
The first half was top-notch and typical of what has become expected whenever these two sides meet.
Tedesco was able to slice through some defence for what was a soft try after just six minutes.
But prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves tried to sneak a pass from the kick-off, watched the ball bounce off the chest of an unsuspecting Lussick to let the Green Machine go on the attack.
And three minutes later John Bateman showed some wonderful skills to kick and chase for himself to level the scores.
The visitors reclaimed the lead when Kyle Flanagan’s pin-point kick came down for Daniel Tupou, who had no dramas bumping off opposite Nick Cotric.
Keary was penalised for a crusher tackle on Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad just before half-time. Keary will have little to worry about when it comes to the match review committee.
Canberra must have wondered if they were better off taking the gift two points and cutting their margin to just two points at the break.
It didn’t matter in the end.
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Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.