Toronto Wolfpack star Sonny Bill Williams underwent a minor knee procedure Tuesday, ironically taking advantage of rugby league's hiatus due to COVID-19 to get healthy.
The club said the former All Black faces a recovery time of some three weeks, a timetable that takes him just past English rugby league's initial April 3 target of returning to action.
"I've come to understand injury is part of sport," Williams said via social media, reaching out to his 896,300 followers on Twitter and 971,000 on Instagram from a hospital in Manchester, England. "Life isn't perfect nor are we."
Williams missed the Wolfpack's last game — an 18-0 Coral Challenge Cup victory over the Huddersfield Giants — with what was described as a swollen knee.
Toronto forward Jon Wilkin, meanwhile, has scheduled knee surgery for the end of March. The 36-year-old has been carrying an injury for a while, leaving his right knee swollen.
The former England and Great Britain international estimates it will be his 17th operation.
The knee problem forced Wilkin to pull out of the warmup ahead of Toronto's Feb. 13 game against Wigan Warriors, but he suited up against Warrington the following week.
Wilkin, who says he basically doesn't have any cartilage left in his right knee, led all players with 39 tackles in the Wolfpack's 32-22 loss.
He has played twice more since, but sat out the Huddersfield game. Surgery was planned after this weekend's scheduled game against Wakefield. But now, like Williams, Wilkin is taking advantage of the break — albeit a little later.
Wilkin reckons he has had at least five operations on his right knee alone, plus procedures on his shoulder, hernia, cheekbone, nose, elbow, hands and a disc in his back. He has pins in both his hands and a titanium plate in his neck.
The Wolfpack currently have five players in self-isolation after experiencing mild possible COVID-19 symptoms. Wolfpack coach Brian McDermott stood the whole team down Monday as a precaution. Rugby league authorities announced a suspension in the season later in the day.
Williams joined McDermott in welcoming the stoppage.
"Glad to see sanity has prevailed and we have stopped playing," the Kiwi said on Twitter.
McDermott said all five were showing "mild" symptoms. All have gone into seven-day isolation. Under the advised British medical protocol, they would get tested for the virus if the symptoms continue after that. The first player to go into self-isolation did so last Thursday.
Toronto was due to play Sunday at Wakefield Trinity.
The Wolfpack, who have lost their first six matches in their debut Super League season, are currently based in England, with their Toronto home opener scheduled for April 18.
The Wolfpack started the season with a small 23-man squad due to salary-cap issues. Rugby league teams dress 17 for games, with 13 starters and four on the interchange bench.
With injuries and self-isolation, the team currently doesn't have enough players to field a team.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2020.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press