Willie Mason is finally unleashed

After almost six months of form filling and patient waiting, Willie Mason was finally unveiled to a packed press room this afternoon at Hull KR‘s Craven Park.

The 6 ft 4 Australian powerhouse, although a little surprised at his well attended reception, looked very comfortable in his new surroundings and is already very keen to get on the field and let his rugby do the talking.

“It’s unreal [to be here]. It took a long time to cut through the red tape and everything but I’m finally here and just looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Mason, who dismissed any suggestion that he had joined for an easy ride, said:  “I know players have come over in the past for a holiday, but I’m only 30 years old you know? I could have easily played in the NRL for three or four more years and ended my career there, but I always wanted to test myself in the SuperLeague, I’ve seen the Challenge Cup final and Grand Finals on TV as a young bloke and toured over here too. I wanted to come over and be involved in the English crowds and the passion week in week out. You only really see that kind of passion over in Oz when a test match or State of Origin is on.”

Mason revealed he had offers to stay in Australia as his visa struggles continued, but he wanted to come to England for ‘another test’: “I wanted to come over at 30 because I still think I have five good years in me, it was my decision to come over now even though I could have easily stayed in the NRL if I wanted to do that, but I’ve played in the NRL at the top there for twelve years and I needed another test, so to speak. I’m over here for at least three years and physically I’ve never felt better.” He said: “I was very surprised when I walked through the door… I’ve been to a few press conferences, but nothing like this! It’s great.”

Although Mason has played in the NRL for 12 years, he is under no illusions as to what Super League has in store: “I was part of an era in the NRL where it was a very aggressive game with a lot of intimidating blokes, but now it’s a lot more athletic as the years progress, with less big hits and stuff like that, whereas the Super League is more ‘old-school’ and you know? You hit hard and you get hit hard, so it should suit my game and it’s one of the reasons why I came over here.”

He explained: “The NRL and the SuperLeague are on different spectrums I think, these days the NRL is trying to turn athletes into ball players and over here it’s more rough and tough and ‘in your face’, which suits my game.”

Hull KR‘s next game is at home to Crusaders, and head coach Justin Morgan fully expects Mason to feature in the team: “It’s likely that he will play. We’ll see how he goes for the remainder of the week but he is very willing and able so I’m confident he will take his place somewhere in the team at the weekend.” Morgan said: “He wants to play, I want him to play and his teammates want him to play, so unless we have any hiccups during the week, I’m sure we’ll see him out there.

Mason concluded his first official media duties by promising the Hull KR fans big performances: “I’m pretty pumped to get out there and play in front of the crowd here, and just rip in now. I want to play passionately because I know how passionate the fans are, and what they expect of their players.” Mason enthused, and as for facing old foes Jamie Peacock and Stuart Fielden again? “Yeah I can’t wait!” He laughed: “I have a lot of respect for Jamie Peacock, he’s a great player and has been for years, and with Stuart too, we’ll leave it on the pitch and see what happens.”

Hull KR play Crusaders at Craven Park on Sunday March 13, kick off 3pm.

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