Mason says he's ready for NRL return
Willie Mason put his hand up for an immediate return to the NRL after an encouraging comeback for Newcastle's NSW Cup side on Sunday.
The former NSW and Kangaroos forward punched out 57 minutes for the Knights in their 36-18 win over Illawarra at Toyota Stadium, and there were enough encouraging signs to suggest the 32-year-old still has something to offer Knights coach Wayne Bennett in the NRL.
Midway through the first-half Mason steamrolled Cutters prop Will Matthews with a trademark charge, from which the former Gold Coast prop didn't return.
Understandably, after 597 days since his last rugby league match, Mason was short on match fitness and often seen standing with hands on hips and eventually forced from the field with cramp with two minutes remaining.
But Mason declared post-match that he doesn't belong in reserve grade, and will be up to the task if Bennett picks him for Newcastle's NRL clash with Penrith next Monday night at Hunter Stadium.
"I think so, no worries," said Mason who was listed at prop, but wore No.12 and played wider at times like a second-rower.
"I'm not really fazed, if (Bennett) picks me next week I'll play.
"I'm not going to say, 'no I need a couple more games in reserve grade'.
"It (fitness) wasn't too bad I suppose."
There is something about Mason's comeback which suggests one of rugby league's most controversial figures has come full circle.
He's been thrown a lifeline by the club he grew up aspiring to play for as a kid, and ran out for the first time with younger brother Rodney on Sunday.
He even had a friendly exchange with his former Canterbury coach and now St George Illawarra assistant Steve Folkes as he ran out onto the field - showing their bitter fallout has now been forgotten.
Mason's enthusiasm was obvious, barking instructions and encouragement at his teammates throughout and speaking about his desire to finish his career on a high.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could get back to the top," he said.
"I don't think age is a barrier ... at the moment now I have the right attitude and I want to get to the top.
"Wayne's given me a great opportunity ... I don't really want to come off the field (with) him being angry at me, it's like your dad being angry at you.
"The NRL is the best comp in the world and it gets the best out of me and knowing there's a big test ahead of me will get the best out of me."
Richard Fa'aoso, Albert Kelly, Evarn Tuimavave and Wes Naiqama also played for the Knights in the NSW Cup win.
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