Willie Mason

There were many out there in the rugby league world, that felt Willie Mason would have little to offer an ailing Newcastle side – but he has proved them wrong, playing some great footy, and close to the Knights best forward since his debut for the club 6 weeks ago.

After 18 months out of the game, Mason’s solid contributions have surprised many-a-fan, but for the man himself, he is pleased that he has managed to silence some of his critics.

“There’s always going to be critics and I suppose it is good to shut a few people up and show them that I could actually play again,” he said.

“I never stopped believing in myself and I always had that faith, even after being out of the game for 18 months.

“I needed that break because I was probably over the NRL and all the stuff that comes with it.

“I just needed a break to rejuvenate and get that hunger back to play again and sitting on the French Riviera for a year does that.

“I don’t regret going at all and I think it’s done wonders for me.”

Mason says that as he nears peak fitness, it is his enthusiasm for the game, perhaps at the highest level it has ever been – that is driving him through the game of rugby league.

“I’m back now and I’m hungrier than ever,” he said.

“I don’t feel 32 at all, my body is till in good nick and I’m motivated and in the right space mentally which is important.

“I’ve played six games now and it usually takes about six games to get going. I feel really fresh, my match fitness is good and I just can’t wait to play each week.”

Mason also felt it was important to give some praise to Knights coach Wayne Bennett, for helping guide him back into the first-grade team and the NRL.

“Wayne’s played me the right way I suppose,” Mason said.

“He hasn’t thrown me in the deep end and said go play 30-40 minutes (straight) because I’ve never been that sort of player anyway. He’s given me a role to go out there and play 15 minutes (at a time) and have a rest.

“The way that I play is pretty powerful and explosive. I’m not an endurance backrower that will play 80 minutes and do 50 tackles and 10 hit-ups. I’m going to try and do that work in 60 minutes.

“I’m in pretty good nick and ready to give the next 11 games a big shot.”

With Mason off-contract at season’s end, although securing a new contract with the Knights is in the back of his mind, Mason says that for him, the priority is to do what he can to see the Knights play finals footy.

“It’s probably on the back-burner, I know something is going to happen next year and I want to stay at the Knights, but first I’d love to play semi-finals and finish the year off well,” he said.

“All the other things like contracts and all that other stuff comes with that.

“I’m a Newcastle boy, I love playing for this Club. I’ve always wanted to play for Newcastle, I know what the culture is like, I know what the people are like and I’d love to finish my career here.”

By ricky

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