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Mason under the microscope as he returns to face Roosters

"The Roosters are all good guys, so it's nothing against Brian Smith - nothing like that - it's just another game for me" ... former Rooster Willie Mason.

"The Roosters are all good guys, so it's nothing against Brian Smith - nothing like that - it's just another game for me" ... former Rooster Willie Mason. Photo: Getty Images

''OH, MY old mate Smithy,'' Willie Mason said with a laugh. ''It'll be good.'' If the headline magnet hoped to keep a low profile in the formative stages of his return to the competition, the schedule has done him no favours.

On Sunday, his Newcastle Knights are away to the Sydney Roosters, the club where he spent two years before he was deemed surplus to requirements for 2010, the final year of his contract and the season Brian Smith took over as head coach.

Mason went on to controversially label the Roosters directors, who cut him (the decision was made before Smith joined from Newcastle), as ''fat businessman'' and ended up at the North Queensland Cowboys. Now, via blink-and-you'll-miss-it stints with Hull Kingston Rovers and French rugby big spenders Toulon he turns up back at his old stomping ground, the Allianz Stadium, but says he has no point to prove.

"The Roosters played some really good football last Wednesday. I think they played their best game but still got beat, so we?ve obviously got some work to do this week" ... Willie Mason.

"The Roosters played some really good football last Wednesday. I think they played their best game but still got beat, so we?ve obviously got some work to do this week" ... Willie Mason. Photo: Getty Images

''The Roosters are all good guys, so it's nothing against Brian Smith - nothing like that - it's just another game for me,'' Mason said after his first NRL game for the Knights, a 34-14 win over Penrith at Hunter Stadium on Monday night.

''The Roosters played some really good football last Wednesday. I think they played their best game but still got beat, so we've obviously got some work to do this week.''

The Roosters, beaten at the post by St George Illawarra on Anzac Day, will have little room for sentiment either, despite several of them retaining strong friendships with Mason.

The 32-year-old arrived at the Roosters for the 2008 season as a decorated NSW and Australian representative, and as their highest-paid player. Things never really went to plan, however, despite the Roosters charging to fourth by that September.

A serious knee injury that kept Mason out of the semi-finals that year also held him back the following season, a woeful campaign in which the Roosters finished last and had to contend with a series of ugly off-field incidents.

There was a widely held view that the Roosters of 2009 had a culture tainted by alcohol. There was a related line of thinking that Mason, the loudest voice among the players, was a bad egg and a poor influence for young teammates such as Mitchell Pearce, Nate Myles and Jake Friend. He was painted as a divisive figure, and got on increasingly poorly with then coach Brad Fittler.

However, his former Roosters teammates maintain it was not that simple. Braith Anasta pleaded for the club to keep Mason, saying he had the respect of all players and was integral to the team.

Another senior player, Anthony Minichiello, told the Herald yesterday that Mason did not deserve the troublemaker tag he acquired at the Roosters when they were at their lowest ebb.

''Everyone knows he likes a night out and all that sort of stuff, but he doesn't drag young blokes out at all,'' Minichiello said. ''At the time, I think everyone in that club wasn't playing well. It was a bad year for us. When Willie has got his head on, he can be a great influence to any player.''

A long-time friend of Mason's, the 31-year-old fullback believes the former international forward can be a great asset for Wayne Bennett at Newcastle and superb value for money given he has joined for only $40,000 plus match payments.

''He's at a great club and a has a good coach behind him … he'll do well,'' Minichiello said. ''I'm good mates with him and happy to see him back in the NRL. I'm looking forward to this weekend.

''Whenever you play against your old club you want to perform well and, with that run under his belt last week, he'll be much better for it.''

Even in the twilight of his career, with his playing minutes restricted from the bench, there is an aura about Mason that makes him a leading attraction on Sunday. ''Everything he does,'' Minichiello said. ''He does it in style.''

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NRL Season 2014

Round 1
Thu, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 28 vs SYD 8 Report Stats
Fri, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 12 vs BRI 18 Stats
Sat, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 30 vs NEW 8 Report Stats
MAN 22 vs MEL 23 Report Stats
NQL 28 vs CAN 22 Report Stats
Sun, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG 44 vs WES 24 Report Stats
PAR 36 vs NZW 16 Report Stats
Mon, 10 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRO 12 vs GCT 18 Report Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 14 vs SOU 12 Report Stats
BRI 16 vs NQL 12 Report Stats
Sat, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 12 vs STG 31 Report Stats
MEL 18 vs PEN 17 Report Stats
SYD 56 vs PAR 4 Report Stats
Sun, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
GCT 12 vs WES 42 Report Stats
NEW 20 vs CAN 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 42 vs CRO 4 Report Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
WES 25 vs SOU 16 Report Stats
BRI 26 vs SYD 30 Report Stats
Sat, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 18 vs BUL 16 Report Stats
CRO 12 vs STG 14 Report Stats
NQL 16 vs NZW 20 Report Stats
Sun, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 22 vs PAR 18 Report Stats
CAN 12 vs GCT 24 Stats
Mon, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL 28 vs NEW 20 Report Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs MAN 8 Report Stats
STG 20 vs BRI 36 Report Stats
Sat, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 42 vs WES 18 Report Stats
PAR 32 vs PEN 16 Report Stats
BUL 40 vs MEL 12 Report Stats
Sun, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 18 vs CAN 30 Report Stats
NEW 30 vs CRO Report Stats
Mon, 31 MarTimes shown AEDT
GCT 13 vs NQL 12 Report Stats
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Round 5
Fri, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
SYD 8 vs BUL 9 Report Stats
BRI 18 vs PAR 25 Report Stats
Sat, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
CRO 37 vs NZW 6 Report Stats
PEN 12 vs CAN 6 Report Stats
STG 6 vs SOU 26 Report Stats
Sun, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL 26 vs GCT 28 Report Stats
WES 34 vs MAN 18 Report Stats
Mon, 07 AprTimes shown AEST
NQL 28 vs NEW 2 Report Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN 2 vs SOU 18 Report Stats
GCT 12 vs BRI 8 Report Stats
Sat, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CAN 12 vs NEW 26 Report Stats
PAR 14 vs SYD 12 Report Stats
WES 16 vs NQL 4 Report Stats
Sun, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
NZW 20 vs BUL 21 Report Stats
MAN 24 vs CRO 4 Report Stats
Mon, 14 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL 28 vs STG 24 Report Stats
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Round 7
Fri, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU 14 vs BUL 15 Report Stats
NEW 6 vs BRI 32 Report Stats
MAN 26 vs NQL 21 Report Stats
Sat, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
STG 20 vs NZW 10 Report Stats
CRO 18 vs SYD 24 Report Stats
Sun, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CAN 24 vs MEL 22 Report Stats
Mon, 21 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 18 vs WES 21 Report Stats
PEN 14 vs GCT 12 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STG 14 vs SYD 34 Report Stats
MEL 10 vs NZW 16 Report Stats
BRI 26 vs SOU 28 Report Stats
Sat, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO 24 vs PEN 20 Report Stats
NQL 42 vs PAR 14 Report Stats
BUL 16 vs NEW 12 Report Stats
Sun, 27 AprTimes shown AEST
MAN 54 vs CAN 18 Report Report Stats
WES 6 vs GCT 22 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 30 vs WES 6 Report Stats
NQL 27 vs BRI 14 Report Stats
Sat, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW 54 vs CAN 12 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs SOU 40 Report Stats
MEL 22 vs MAN 19 Report Stats
Sun, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW 10 vs PEN 32 Report Stats
STG 6 vs BUL 38 Report Stats
Mon, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR 42 vs CRO 24 Report Stats
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Round 10
Fri, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 14 vs MEL 27 Report Stats
BRI 22 vs GCT 8 Report Stats
Sat, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR 36 vs STG Report Stats
CRO 20 vs WES 22 Report Stats
NQL 42 vs SYD 10 Report Stats
Sun, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
CAN 20 vs PEN 26 Report Stats
BUL 16 vs NZW 12 Report Stats
Mon, 19 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 15 vs NEW 14 Report Stats
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Round 11
Fri, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BUL 12 vs SYD 32 Report Stats
Sat, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT 16 vs NZW 24 Report Stats
WES 14 vs BRI 16 Report Stats
Sun, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
CAN 42 vs NQL 12 Report Stats
Mon, 26 MayTimes shown AEST
CRO vs SOU 18 Report Stats
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Round 12
Fri, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN 38 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
Sat, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 26 vs CAN 12 Report Stats
NQL 22 vs MEL Report Stats
Sun, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 38 vs NEW 18 Report Stats
BRI 36 vs MAN 10 Report Stats
Mon, 02 JunTimes shown AEST
SOU 29 vs STG 10 Report Stats
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Round 13
Fri, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN 32 vs BUL 10 Report Stats
PAR 18 vs NQL 16 Report Stats
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT 14 vs PEN 36 Report Stats
STG 30 vs CRO Report Stats
SOU 34 vs NZW 18 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 20 vs WES 23 Report Stats
MEL 12 vs SYD 32 Report Stats
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CAN 4 vs BRI 28 Stats
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Round 14
Fri, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
SOU 32 vs WES 10 Report Stats
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
PEN 18 vs STG 14 Report Stats
SYD 29 vs NEW 12 Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL 12 vs PAR 22 Report Stats
Mon, 16 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT 20 vs MEL 24 Report Stats
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Round 15
Fri, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAN 14 vs BUL 22 Report Stats
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 19 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
CRO vs MAN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 46 vs PAR 20 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs STG 19 Report Stats
Mon, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW 36 vs NQL 28 Report Stats
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Round 16
Fri, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN 24 vs SYD 16 Report Stats
BRI 22 vs CRO 24 Report Stats
Sat, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
WES 19 vs CAN 18 Report Report Stats
NQL 20 vs SOU 18 Report Stats
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW 30 vs PEN 20 Report Stats
PAR 10 vs NEW 16 Report Stats
Mon, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
STG 24 vs MEL 12 Report Stats
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Round 17
Fri, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
BUL 23 vs MAN 16 Report Stats
Sat, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
STG 27 vs NQL 24 Report Stats
SYD 28 vs CRO 30 Report Stats
Sun, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WES 10 vs PEN 26 Report Stats
Mon, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
SOU 10 vs GCT 14 Report Stats
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Round 18
Fri, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN 40 vs WES 8 Report Stats
Sat, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW 48 vs PAR Report Stats
MEL 4 vs BUL 6 Report Stats
Sun, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT 20 vs CAN 36 Report Stats
CRO 18 vs NEW 31 Report Stats
Mon, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN 35 vs BRI 34 Report Stats
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Round 19
Fri, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CRO 18 vs NQL 36 Report Stats
PAR 12 vs SOU 32 Report Stats
Sat, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 32 vs PEN 12 Report Stats
MEL 28 vs CAN 14 Report Stats
BRI 28 vs NZW 22 Report Stats
Sun, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
NEW 8 vs GCT 22 Report Stats
WES 46 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
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STG 12 vs MAN 21 Report Stats
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Round 20
Fri, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
NEW 16 vs SYD 12 Report Stats
BRI 8 vs MEL 30 Stats
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PEN 16 vs CRO 18 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs PAR 24 Stats
BUL 12 vs NQL 20 Report Stats
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NZW 12 vs MAN 22 Report Stats
WES 12 vs STG 28 Stats
Mon, 28 JulTimes shown AEST
CAN 18 vs SOU 34 Stats
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Round 21
Fri, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
MAN 16 vs BRI 4 Report Stats
BUL 16 vs PEN 22 Stats
Sat, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
CRO 12 vs PAR 32 Report Stats
NQL 28 vs GCT 8 Stats
SYD 30 vs STG 22 Stats
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CAN 18 vs NZW 54 Stats
SOU 50 vs NEW 10 Stats
Mon, 04 AugTimes shown AEST
WES 6 vs MEL 28 Stats
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Round 22
Fri, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 23 vs MAN 4 Report Stats
BRI 41 vs BUL 10 Report Stats
Sat, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
NEW 32 vs MEL 30 Report Stats
NQL 64 vs WES 6 Report Stats
PAR 18 vs CAN 10 Report Stats
Sun, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 16 vs CRO 12 Report Stats
STG 4 vs PEN 16 Stats
Mon, 11 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 26 vs GCT 18 Report Stats
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Round 23
Thu, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SOU 42 vs BRI 16 Report Stats
Fri, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR 16 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
CAN 16 vs STG 34 Report Stats
MEL 48 vs CRO 6 Report Stats
WES 4 vs SYD 48 Report Stats
Sun, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
NEW 28 vs NZW 22 Report Stats
GCT 12 vs MAN 15 Report Stats
Mon, 18 AugTimes shown AEST
PEN 23 vs NQL 22 Report Stats
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Round 24
Thu, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
BUL 30 vs WES 10 Stats
Fri, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR 22 vs MAN 12 Report Stats
Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 48 vs NEW 6 Report Stats
SOU 10 vs NQL 22 Report Stats
Sun, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 12 vs SYD 46 Report Stats
CRO 12 vs CAN 22 Stats
STG 34 vs GCT 6 Stats
Mon, 25 AugTimes shown AEST
PEN 10 vs MEL 24 Stats
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Round 25
Thu, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
BUL 14 vs SOU 21 Stats
Fri, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 30 vs STG 22 Stats
Sat, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
NEW 42 vs PAR 12 Stats
CAN 27 vs WES 12 Stats
SYD 24 vs MEL 12 Stats
Sun, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW 42 vs GCT Stats
MAN 26 vs PEN 25 Stats
Mon, 01 SepTimes shown AEST
NQL 20 vs CRO 19 Stats
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Round 26
Thu, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 22 vs SOU 18 Stats
Fri, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL 22 vs BRI 12 Stats
Sat, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
WES 26 vs CRO 10 Report Stats
CAN 33 vs PAR 20 Stats
NQL 30 vs MAN 16 Report Stats
Sun, 07 SepTimes shown AEST
NEW 40 vs STG 10 Report Stats
GCT 19 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
PEN 22 vs NZW 6 Stats
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Finals Week 1
Fri, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
MAN 24 vs SOU 40 Report Stats
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SYD 18 vs PEN 19 Report Stats
NQL 32 vs BRI 20 Report Stats
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MEL 4 vs BUL 28 Report Stats
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Finals Week 2
Fri, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 31 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
Sat, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
MAN 17 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
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Preliminary Finals
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SOU 32 vs SYD 22 Report Stats
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PEN 12 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
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Grand Final
Sun, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
SOU 30 vs BUL 6 Report Stats
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NRL Premiership - 2014 Ladder
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South Sydney 24 15 9 0 224 34
Penrith 24 15 9 0 80 34
North Queensland 24 14 10 0 190 32
Melbourne 24 14 10 0 76 32
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Brisbane 24 12 12 0 93 28
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