Willie Mason
Willie Mason

Mason could be the one for the Knights

I RECOLLECT reading back in January where Greg Bird urged NRL clubs to sign Willie Mason, describing him as a superstar of the game with a bad-boy image that was undeserved.

Thankfully - for big Willie - and not surprisingly, no-one took much heed of the Bird advice. After all, Greg is not exactly a man of spotless reputation himself.

News this week that Mason has been snapped up by the struggling Knights is interesting, but not surprising. Not only is Newcastle poor all over the park, but their forwards have been laying no platform.

Anyone who knows rugby league understands that Mason, who turned 32 last Sunday, has been a very good player - although never a superstar. His best days may well be behind him, but if he pulls his finger out and disciplines himself, he could be invaluable to the Knights.

And from first-hand knowledge, I can vouch that Wayne Bennett has a high opinion of Mason - both as a player and a bloke. In my time with the Broncos Mason was a constant visitor to our change rooms when we played his team, and he always made a beeline for the coach.

Bennett also relishes a challenge, and - apart from the form of his stuttering Knights - there would be no bigger challenge in the game at the moment than getting Mason back to his best. My tip is that signing him will prove to be a Bennett masterstroke.

But the initial masterstroke was not signing him in January. Back then he would have been cocky and ego driven. Now, there is no other road out of Newcastle for Willie Mason.

* * * *

A host of Kiwis and a few Aussies may not have a very high opinion of defector James Tamou, but I'm betting Channel Nine executives love the big bloke and are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the opening minutes of tonight's Anzac Test.

These one-off Tests are usually fairly ho-hum, one-sided affairs and rarely score on the TV ratings scale. But this one will start with genuine venom. Tamou can expect to be literally bashed by the Kiwi forwards, on whom he has turned his back.

And those absolute masochists, who would like to hear the carnage before seeing it, can tune into radio at 6.30pm our time. The Nine telecast is delayed by an hour.

* * * *

David Furner will have aged a few years this week, and he may even have started looking through the Positions Vacant columns following the news that Terry Campese will not play again in 2012.

Furner has been on tenterhooks for a couple of seasons now, not just because the Raiders have failed to live up to expectations, but because former premiership-winning halfback Ricky Stuart is looking for an NRL coaching job. It seems the fact that his older brother Don is the Raiders CEO will not save Furner now.

I thought the wooden spoon would be fought out between the Panthers and Eels, but the Raiders are now my choice for that unwanted gong.



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