GEORGE SMITH is in hot demand from French rugby clubs including Toulon but the Brumbies remain confident of retaining the superstar breakaway. ACT chief executive Andrew Fagan spoke to Smith before he left for the European tour and said the Wallabies No.7 won’t be making a decision until February. "I was neither surprised nor concerned when I heard there was interest in George from French rugby," Fagan said. "If anything, I’m surprised I didn’t hear about it earlier given his stature in the game." Smith won the RUPA player of the year award on Friday but was still on holidays in Europe. There were some suggestions he stayed to speak to Toulon, Brive and Clermont. Fagan said Smith’s decision would not only be based on money. "Some people don’t realise that it’s not all financial … it doesn’t suit some guys to just move their family overseas." The possibility of granting Smith a sabbatical similar to that of Rocky Elsom has not been discussed but Fagan said it was likely to come up in negotiations. Sonny Bill returns
Toulon’s star signing in 2008, Sonny Bill Williams , made his long-awaited return to the rugby field in the side’s 30-9 victory over Montpellier at the weekend. After spending three months on the sidelines with a leg injury, Williams played the final 20 minutes in the centres. "The leg pulled up a bit sore but I feel everything is going ahead as planned. I’m happy to be back," Williams said. Warner hits IPL jackpot
Power hitter David Warner will sign a rich deal with an IPL franchise in the next 48 hours. The NSW batsman has offers from Kolkata and Delhi, while there has been late interest from another club over the weekend. Under legislation introduced six weeks ago, franchises are allowed to sign only one non-internationally capped player before the auction in February and Kolkata has already signed Moises Henriques for $US300,000 ($456,330) a year. However, Kolkata say they started negotiations with Warner before the rule was introduced and may be able to purchase him. Other franchises are also trying to do the same with players including NSW leggie Steven Smith . If the IPL decides they’re not allowed to sign these players before the auction, the franchises will agree to make a bid for those players to the value of what they have offered, so players who have been offered these six-figure contracts are not suddenly left cashless and clubless after auction. Warner will be a very rich man by the middle of this week. Souths courting Maitua
Souths believe Reni Maitua could be the final piece of the puzzle that will catapult them into the finals next season. The Rabbitohs are pursuing Maitua after he was sacked by the Bulldogs earlier this month and club insiders say he could be used devastatingly on the flanks along with David Fa’alogo . Meanwhile, rumours that Maitua had a falling out with fellow Bra Boy John Sutton are wide of the mark. "That’s a lie," Sutton said. "I’ve spoken to him, trying to get him over to Souths. It would be good if we can get him, he is good all over the field and he has won a premiership." Stagg in their sights
Musical chairs is set to continue in light of Maitua’s axing. Broncos officials are all but resigned to losing utility David Stagg , who met Bulldogs types yesterday before flying back to Brisbane. "The Bulldogs have got a good set-up, I just have to weigh it up and make the decision that’s best for me and the family," Stagg said. The Dogs want Stagg as a replacement to Maitua and have offered him a two-year deal, while the Broncos have no room to move under the salary cap. Tah-ed and feathered
A no-holds-barred podcast talking all things Waratahs and rugby in general will be launched on Wednesday by former NSW media man Djuro Sen . Now that Sen has cut ties with the Tahs he will be able to reveal some deep and dark secrets on his new site ruggamatrix南京夜网. Among the guests on the first show will be Lote Tuqiri and Ewen McKenzie . NRL players blacklisted
NRL players have been banned from the swankiest party on New Year’s Day, the Day One event at Ivy’s model-heavy pool deck. A few players were left flummoxed when they tried to get tickets and were bluntly told that no league players would be allowed at the do. Nine’s bouncing back
Channel Nine says rumours they may go into receivership have no foundation. "Truth is Nine’s bouncing back, as reflected in every definitive ratings measurement available," a network source said. "It’s a hard road to be sure, as it is for all networks, but the joint ain’t gonna disappear." Say what?
"Perhaps I could return to save the division, if the Klitschko brothers decided to fight, I could imagine I would return to face the winner." Former heavyweight boxing king Lennox Lewis jokes after again being asked to come out of retirement to fight Vitali or Wladimir – who yesterday retained his IBF and WBO titles by stopping Hasim Rahman in seven rounds. WEEKEND WARRIOR: ADRIAN BREEN
Adrian Breen, a Drummoyne fitness trainer who sparred 99 rounds in succession on Saturday to raise money for prostate cancer. He raised nearly $4000. Why? "My dad John has prostate cancer. He had an operation three years ago and it has come back, he’s having chemotherapy at the moment. I’m just hoping he comes through it.
"You must be feeling sensational? "My body is pretty sore, my arms started cramping up in about the 34th round. I did 99 two-minute rounds with a 30-minute break after each 33 rounds. By the 76th round I started to get a bit of a headache, and with 20 to go it got really tough because you knew the end was near. I’ve got a black eye and a bruised nose but I’m OK – I’m going back to work [today]. "
Where did you get the idea? "I have always been into boxing and I’ve seen how they have fight nights for cancer fundraising. The clock in my gym only goes up to 99 rounds so I decided to fight 99 rounds. My mates have said next year they’re going to buy me a clock that reaches triple figures."
You’re not going to do it again? "Yes, this will be an annual thing, but I’m hoping to get other people involved so I won’t have to spar all 99 rounds." The hero - John Drake
The World Cup-winning All Black and respected rugby commentator died suddenly at his home in Mt Maunganui at the weekend, aged just 49. Drake, a tight-head prop, played eight Tests including the 1987 World Cup final against France – the All Blacks’ only title. Drake proved to be a brilliant analyst of the game in his media role, and his witty barbs will be missed. The number - 203
Votes club great Brett Kenny polled at the Parramatta Eels board election yesterday, helping the rebel ticket to power. The villain - golf carts
Robert Allenby said he "could have been killed" after a cart overturned at Royal Sydney, flinging him, Darren Clarke and caddie Col Burwood three metres into the air. The trio were driving back to the locker room during a downpour on Friday and the cart failed to handle the terrain, leaving Clarke’s right leg bruised and Allenby with a sore left thigh.