It’s a battle that I am sure many have been anticipating. Even if you aren’t a Roosters or South Sydney supporter, most will watch tonights game in the hope of these two big men firing up and going hard at each other.
David Kidwell when interviewed by the media yesterday spoke about the chance of fireworks between him and Willie Mason; and while the media do sometimes beat it up a little too much – Mason really hasn’t had the chance to ‘get square’ with Kidwell after that monster hit in the 2006 tri-nations series, leaving the door open for the former Bulldog to get one back.
While Willie Mason is a damaging NRL opponent, he hasn’t really proved himself as someone who can handle the pressure when things get full-on physical. He has been involved in the odd punch up, the first coming to mind was Willie king hitting Stuart Fielden in the tri-nations match in 2006 – a situation where he took the enemy by surprise, rather than going toe to toe. But can Willie really deal with the true rough stuff?
During his time at the Bulldogs, there were occasions when Willie went missing when the rough stuff came out; fortunately for him he was able to hide behind one of the toughest packs in the NRL at the time. Fast forward to now and the chances are that if South Sydney turn on the true aggression with the Roosters tonight that Willie might go and hide.
Brad Fittler has probably made the right move in keeping Mason out of the fray during those fiery opening exchanges. He will get the most out of Willie Mason when the Bunnies are worn down and the bite has gone out of their tackles. Shielding the former Bulldog from the early minutes will also reduce the impact of the Kidwell vs Mason factor. While disappointing for the crowd, once again it seems like the smartest move for the Eastern Sydney side.
So while Willie Mason might have stirred up headlines relating to Craig Wing and the fact that the Roosters hate Souths; realistically the pressure is more so on him. Not only does he have to perform for his new club – but it will be extremely interesting to see how he stands up to the raw aggression of David Kidwell. It’s well past the time Willie got some respect back, because David Kidwell and much of the Rugby League world have secretly laughing at the big guy for a year or so now.