When a young boy raced onto the field to celebrate with the victorious All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup final at the weekend, it didn’t take long for security to be hot on his tail.
But what turned from a confronting moment in which the slight-framed young boy was crash-tackled quickly became the most heart-melting moment of the tournament.
The pitch invader, who has since been identified as 14-year-old British schoolboy Charlie Line, landed at the feet of hulking Kiwi Sonny Bill Williams, 30, who promptly picked him up, dusted him off, and gave the thrilled little guy a massive bear hug.
“He’s just a young fella obviously caught up in the moment,” Sonny explained after the game. “If that was a younger brother or cousin, I would have given the security guard a hiding! But I just picked the kid up and took him back to his old lady and tried to make the night more memorable for him. The way he got round that security guard, he could be a future All Black in the making!”
But the special treatment from Sonny didn’t end there. Before re-joining his teammates, the former Sydney Roosters rugby league star placed his medal around Charlie’s neck.
Understandably, when the teenager realised he got to keep it, it sparked even more pandemonium among the crowd.
“I know he’ll appreciate it and when he gets older he’ll be telling his kids. That’s more special than it just hanging on a wall.” says Sonny.
“Better for it to be hanging around his neck than mine. I’m sure he’ll remember it for a while.”
It’s not the first time Sonny made headlines for the right reasons this World Cup.
Before playing in the semi-final, he put a call-out on social media offering free tickets to Syrian refugees.
“Any agency in London with a Syrian refugee that wants to go to the game tomorrow, I have two tickets to give to you. Let me know,” he said.
After the All Blacks beat South Africa out of the semi, he was seen leaning down to hug and comfort Springbok Jesse Kriel, who was distraught and sitting on the ground.
During his early years playing in the Australian National Rugby League, Sonny earned himself a reputation as a bad boy of the sport. These days, he has converted to Islam and is a married father of one.
He regularly posts adorable images of his little daughter Imaan, who is almost one, and wife Alana.
Sonny describes Imaan as his “little boss lady”.