My First Game: From teenage debut to the red carpet

The My First Game series features players past and present, officials and fans telling us of their memories of their first game of rugby league – be it as a player or simply as a fan.

This week, it’s Keith Mason.

Mason, now 36, made more than 250 first grade appearances during his career, including a four-game stint with Melbourne Storm in the NRL.

He started out at Wakefield, and made his debut against Huddersfield at the age of 18 in September 2000. He had previously played for Trinity, in a Boxing Day friendly against Castleford in 1999.

That game finished 14-14, with Wakefield fighting back from 14-4 down at half-time to claim a draw thanks to Paul Handforth’s converted try. Steve Prescott made his, albeit unofficial, debut for Wakefield in the same game.

Mason had to wait eight months for his first real taste of first team action – in a Super League clash at the McAlpine Stadium against the then-merged Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants.

The Dewsbury-born forward started on the bench alongside current Catalans coach Steve McNamara, as well as Ryan Hudson and Jamie Field, who these days co-own the 5 Star Fitness company.

A crowd of 2,409 saw Huddersfield run out narrow 16-14 winners, despite Wakefield scoring three tries to the Giants’ two.

Gene Ngamu scored a try and four goals for the Giants, with Chris Thorman scoring their other try. The Giants line-up included the 1999 Lance Todd Trophy winner Leroy Rivett, current Halifax coach Richard Marshall and Matt Crowther, who was a try scorer in the first ever Super League match for Sheffield against Paris St Germain.

Mason said: “I played in a friendly game against Castleford when I was 17, I was a young kid, it was a rainy day.

“My official debut was when we played Huddersfield, just like any debut I look back and it was awesome.

“Every player when they make their debut with the big boys think it’s great and I was very lucky to start very early and I think when you start young, you have to be tough otherwise they’ll run riot with you.

“But I thoroughly enjoyed my rugby league career and I love rugby league.

“Some of the people who run it I’m not a big fan of, but rugby league in general is a great sport, it’s fantastic and it’s not where I think I should be.

“But I’m sure we could make a film and get somewhere where rugby league couldn’t get – global.”

Mason retired at the end of 2013 and has forged a career as an actor since, starring alongside Mickey Rourke in the film Skin Traffik, and also in the TV series Peaky Blinders.

He is working on an idea for an action film where the world’s biggest rugby league star has to fight the Russian mafia, and also a TV series centred around a sports agent.

The former prop forward who won two caps for Wales, went on to play for St Helens, Castleford and Huddersfield in his career – winning the Challenge Cup with Saints in 2004.

Keith Mason’s “My First Game” – Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants 16-14 Wakefield Wildcats

Huddersfield: Gene Ngamu (1T, 4G), Leroy Rivett, Matt Crowther, Chris Langley, Danny Arnold, Chris Thorman (1T), Mark Moxon, Steve Molloy, Danny Russell, Dale Laughton, David Lomax, Richard Marshall, Darren Turner. Subs: Ben Cooper, Jeff Hardy, Dave Bradbury, Jamie Fielden

Wakefield: Neil Law (1T), Bright Sodje, Adam Hughes, Graham Law, Ben Westwood, Paul March (1T, 1G), Glen Tomlinson, Francis Stephenson, David March (1T), Martin Masella, Warren Jowitt, Andy Fisher, Willie Poching. Subs: Keith Mason, Ryan Hudson, Steve McNamara, Jamie Field.