Date: May 03 2012
If headline magnet Willie Mason hoped to keep a low profile in the formative stages of his return to the NRL, 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 in which 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 since re-named Allianz Stadium, but saying he has not got a point to prove.
''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 in the wake of his first NRL game for the Knights, a 34-14 win over Penrith 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, almost inconceivably beaten at the post by a rapidly finishing 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 Bondi Junction 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 place 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 dead last and had to contend with a series of ugly off-field incidents.
Former teammate and close friend Anthony Minichiello said yesterday Mason did not deserve the troublemaker tag he acquired at the Roosters.
''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.''
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