Sonny Bill Williams "has let a lot of kids down" says a children's charity who had recruited the NRL star as the major drawcard for their main fundraising event.
Williams sudden and announced departure for France, apparently to take up a big rugby union contract, has left children's charity Essere without a guest of honour for their "Take a Walk on the Wild Side " dinner in Sydney on Tuesday 19 August.
"Yeah, it's a very big blow for us," said Fran Dobbie, the founder of Essere, which funds and organises workshops for children and young people to prevent bullying , teasing , depression and youth suicide.
Williams signed a letter that went with invitations to the dinner and appears in his NRL Bulldogs jersey on the website advertising the event as being "with Sonny Bill Williams and friends".
"He was a big drawcard. People might say we don't want to go,' Ms Dobbie said.
Ms Dobbie said that Williams was an important rolemodel for children both boys and girls "who just love him".
"A lot of children will know about it" she said.
"What message is this giving young people? He is only 22 to make such a big decision."
Ms Dobbie says she thinks Williams may not have been able to cope with the "fishbowl" attention and targeting he got as such a high profile sports star but he should face up to the situation he is in with "integrity".
"He should say 'I've made a mistake. Sorry, I've let you guys down. What can I do to rectify it?'" Ms Dobie said.
Ms Dobie said she still wished Williams well and was trying to make a negative into a positive by hosting a "dream team" of other celebrity, sporting and political figures at the upcoming dinner.
In attendance will be Today Show presenter Karl Stefanovic, New South Wales Premier Iemma , NSW Treasurer Michael Costa, Manly and Bulldogs NRL personalities with former Sixty Minutes reporter Jeff McMullen as MC.
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