Mason closing in on NRL return
Newcastle NSW Cup coach Rip Taylor admits Willie Mason is a class above the second-tier competition, but stopped short of endorsing an immediate return to the NRL for the Knights recruit.
“Someone else with a different pay packet makes that decision,” said Taylor, with speculation growing that Mason will be rushed into the Knights side for Monday’s clash against Penrith after an impressive first-up display for Newcastle’s feeder club last Saturday.
“He was obviously very good for a bloke that hasn’t played any football for quite some time.
“He’s presented himself and held his gloves up alright, especially the first 25.”
The Knights have been in desperate need of some more grunt up front, a need which could be exacerbated against a Panthers pack that may be bolstered by the inclusion of prop Tim Grant.
Taylor said he was impressed with Mason’s attitude in his first game of rugby league in Australia since 2010.
“He’s got a lot of experience and he’s played something like 24 Tests – he’s not a slouch on the football field, that’s for sure,” Taylor said.
“He was good to have around the boys and they got the cash, so that was good.”
Taylor said he had not spoken to Knights coach Wayne Bennett about Mason’s performance, having simply forwarded him a tape of the game.
Mason might not be the only familiar face making a reappearance in the NRL with South Sydney winger Nathan Merritt returning from a toe injury in the NSW Cup on the weekend.
His possible inclusion in the Rabbitohs squad to face North Queensland on Saturday night will likely come at the expense of centre Shaun Corrigan.
Parramatta halfback Chris Sandow will retain the Eels No.7 jumper for Sunday’s match against Wests Tigers despite being sent to the NSW Cup in a bid to find some form last weekend while the NRL competition was on hiatus.
Sandow never made it onto the paddock for Wentworthville because of a shoulder injury, but neither form nor injury is expected to stop him taking on the Tigers.
The Warriors named a 19-man squad for the Anzac Day battle against Melbourne, with Pita Godinet and Glen Fisiiahi travelling to the Victorian capital as cover for Shaun Johnson and Manu Vatuvei, who both picked up knocks in Friday night’s Test loss to Australia.
Meanwhile, Manly are hopeful of having representative trio Brett and Glenn Stewart and Kieran Foran back on deck for Friday night’s grudge match with former coach and now Canterbury mentor Des Hasler.© AAP 2013