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March 13, 2004: SBW makes his debut

Canterbury produced one of the finest opening 40 minutes of football to run out winners 48-14 but the match witnessed the emergence of a future superstar in Sonny Bill Williams.

The 18-year-old centre or backrower was completely unstoppable in the first half as Parramatta had no idea how to tackle him. Williams was mainly used as a backrower in the lower grades last year but with Ben Harris injured and Matthew Utai suspended, Williams was given his chance in the centres and he's here to stay as a first grader.

Back in 1976, the front cover on Rugby League Week said "A Star Is Born" when former Bulldogs halfback Steve Mortimer emerged on the scene. The same wraps and hype Mortimer received 28 years ago will be the same for Williams as he breathed life into the Bulldogs.

Critics were gleeing that the loss of Nigel Vagana would cripple the Bulldogs but Williams at 12-years younger and injury-free appears to be the wise investment. Williams' centre partner Willie Tonga certainly didn't have the impact of Williams, but his performance was sensational against his former club, completely outplaying Jamie Lyon as he scored the first try of the match.

The Bulldogs led 36-0 at halftime and soon after the break went to a 42-0 lead. Naturally Canterbury clocked off during the second half as the Eels raced in three tries with Adam Dykes showing the form that made him one of the leading players when he was at the Sharks in 2001.

Hutch Maiava however ensured the Bulldogs had the final say on the match when he scored following an Eels error from the kick-off.

Parramatta's performance must be mentioned - they were disappointing and the extra bulk Brian Smith added to his side only created further gaps on the fringe of the rucks.

The match should be remembered as the night that a superstar emerged and shined.

Bulldogs 48 (Thurston 2, Anasta, Asotasi, Patten, Tonga, Williams, Maiava tries: El Masri 8 goals) def. Eels 14 (Grothe, Petersen, Vaealiki tries: Burt goal)


1. Luke Patten, 2. Hazem El Masri, 3. Sonny Bill Williams, 4. Willie Tonga, 5. Jamaal Lolesi, 6. Johnathan Thurston, 7. Brent Sherwin, 8. Dennis Scott, 9. Corey Hughes, 10. Steve Price, 11. Willie Mason, 12. Andrew Ryan, 13. Braith Anasta.
Interchange: 14. Tony Grimaldi, 15. Roy Asotasi, 17. Hutch Maiava, 19. Reni Maitua