You either love him or you hate him. Whatever your feelings are, you cant question Willie Mason’s resurgence at the Newcastle Knights. Mason is a headline act in every sense of the word.
Mason has had more lives than a cat. Since leaving the Sydney Roosters at the end of 2009, the giant prop has had stints in Townsville, Hull and Toulon. The former international was even a Barbarian.
But since signing with the Knights, Mason has been on his best behaviour. You know big Willie is in a good place judging by the silence of his critics.
Ask any of his Newcastle colleagues and they will tell you the same thing. Mason is the glue that keeps the team together. He’s an old school rugby league player and probably should have played in the 1980’s.
Nobody is forgetting Mason’s past. But if you’re going to kick him when he’s down, you should give him credit when he’s up.
After an impressive return to the National Rugby League in 2012, Mason was awarded Wayne Bennett’s Coaches Award. Undoubtedly an honour Mason will cherish for the rest of his life.
The Toronto native was rewarded with a two-year extension at the Knights that will take him through until he’s 34.
“Willie made a wonderful contribution to the Knights from the minute he arrived, which has been well documented,” coach Bennett told The Sydney Morning Herald earlier in the month.
“We are all looking forward to seeing what a good pre-season can do for him as well as seeing him play with the Knights for the next two seasons.”
And that’s the scary part for his counterparts.
Mason hasn’t had a legitimate pre-season for six years. There is no reason to think the former Clive Churchill Medallist cant play representative football again.
“There were high expectations on me and in some games I showed glimpses of what I am capable of doing,” Mason told Knights TV.
“I want to really nail that for a good 50-60 minutes and training with the boys this entire pre-season, will give me a lot of confidence.
“And with a pack boosted by Jeremy Smith, Beau Scott, David Fa’alogo, we really need to take it to another level.
“It has been really fun and all the training keeps you on your toes.”
You sense a determined Mason with points to prove is a scary proposition for anyone lining up against him in 2013.
He finally seems comfortable with his place in the world.