Willie Mason

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Willie Mason (born 15 April 1980) is an Australian professional rugby league footballer for the Newcastle Knights of the National Rugby League (NRL). A Tonga national and Australia international, and New South Wales State of Origin representative prop or second-row forward, he has previously played for NRL clubs, the Bulldogs, with whom he won the 2004 NRL Premiership and Clive Churchill Medal, the Sydney Roosters and the North Queensland Cowboys, English Super League clubs, Hull Kingston Rovers and Top 14 rugby union club Toulon.[1] Mason has been associated with many controversial off-field incidents which have received media publicity due to his high profile in the NRL.


Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Mason is of Tongan, Samoan and African American descent.[2] He moved to Australia at a young age and grew up in Toronto, New South Wales playing his junior football for the Toronto Macquarie Scorpions[3] and the Lakes United Seagulls.

Professional playing career

In 1997 Mason was signed by the Hunter Mariners and played in the lower grades until the club became defunct at the end of the year.[4]


In 1998, Mason signed with the Bulldogs and played in the under-18s Jersey Flegg competition. In 1999, Mason suffered a leg fracture in the game before the Bulldogs' Jersey Flegg Grand Final win. In 2000, Mason moved on to the NSWRL Premier League.

In Round 13 of the 2000 NRL season he made his NRL debut for the Bulldogs against the Penrith Panthers after first-grader Darren Britt suffered an injury. He became a regular first-grader for the rest of the season. After the 2000 season, Mason made his international debut for Tonga, his mother's country of origin, in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup played in Great Britain and Ireland.

In 2002, Mason was reported to have run from a taxi to avoid paying the fare.[5][6] In mid-2002, the Bulldogs were found guilty of serious and systemic breaches of the salary cap. The club was stripped of all 37 competition points, stopping them from taking out the Minor Premiership. Mason therefore missed out on the opportunity to win a Minor Premiership. After the 2002 NRL season, Mason was selected to make his debut for Australia against Great Britain. He scored a try on debut.

During 2003, Mason earned a call-up to make his debut for New South Wales in Game 3 of the 2003 State of Origin series. After the 2003 NRL season, he went on the 2003 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France, helping Australia to victory over Great Britain in what would be the last time the two nations contested an Ashes series. In 2003, he tested positive to an illicit social drug, reported to be an amphetamine, and was fined $25,000 by his club. Mason has never commented on the issue publicly.[7]

Mason was out of action during the first half of the 2005 NRL season and did not play in the NRL until Round 18 where the Bulldogs were experiencing a Grand-Final hangover and already stuck in the bottom-eight of the competition. He played in the 2005 Tri-nations tournament.

In June 2006, news speculation surfaced that Mason was considering joining the United States'[National Football League (NFL), a childhood dream. He was said to be courted by several teams, including the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers.[8] In July it was confirmed the New York Giants had offered him the opportunity to trial with them after the Rugby League Tri-Nations series finished in November.[9] However, the Canterbury club had dismissed the deal, and Mason remained with the club beyond 2006.[10] In 2006, Willie returned to become a regular member of the Bulldogs team where he managed to play 20 club matches, all three Origin games for NSW – in which he was named Man of the Match in the opening game and three Tests for Australia in the 2006 Tri-Nations series. He was a firm figure in the clubs return to finals football as the Bulldogs finished second on the ladder, the Dogs were beaten by eventual Premiers the Brisbane Broncos one game shy of the Grand Final. In December 2006 Mason took part in a trial with the New York Jets, but still maintained he would fulfil his contract with the Bulldogs until the end of the 2009 season.[11] Mason said "I'm probably at the time in my career now where maybe it is time for a change. New York City is the capital of the world. I'm pretty sure I could settle in there if given the opportunity,..."[3]. However a Jets representative stated that Mason even being offered a contract was very unlikely, "I don't think they were even football drills, it was more of a visit. We just had a look at him and that is where we left it." The Jets coach Eric Mangini was impressed with Mason, saying "Willie is a guy that came to our attention, he is a pretty good rugby player, and it was just one of those opportunities we had, where we have to take a look at him. What we're doing is taking a look at him, seeing what potential there is for him. He seems to have been a pretty dynamic guy in that league for a long time. He seemed relatively feisty when I spoke to him." The Bulldogs never anticipated any move, saying "Willie has given us his guarantee he will be with us." [4]

Mason was selected to play for the Australian national team at second-row forward the 2007 ANZAC Test match victory against New Zealand.[12] A few weeks later he was involved in a nightclub altercation with the out-spoken Richie Williams, who Mason claimed shows no respect to the older players in the NRL and is a cocky kid who has yet to prove himself in the NRL.[13] Mason was voted the most hated player by a fans poll in 2007.[14] At Sydney Airport in 2007, Mason verbally challenged a female reporter from radio station 2GB, resulting in a complaint from 2GB to the Bulldogs club and the ARL[15][16] Mason later admitted to the outburst, which was captured on audio recordings, and apologised to 2GB journalist Michelle Keighran.[17] Mason is sponsored by sportswear manufacturer, Champion, which almost severed its contract with the controversial footballer as a result of the incident.[18] In 2007, Mason was selected for all three Origin games for NSW and represented Australia in the ANZAC Test match. At the conclusion of the 2007 NRL season, the media began reporting that Mason was unhappy at the Bulldogs. On 31 October 2007 The Daily Telegraph reported that Mason wanted to leave the Bulldogs after an altercation with the club's CEO, Malcolm Noad.[19] A day later it was reported that Mason was to be released from the final two years of his contract after the club rejected his chance to fight in a professional boxing match worth up to A$100,000 and because the club claimed to be fining Mason $50,000 for failure to attend an end of season function, although this was denied by the Bulldogs.[20] Speculation that Mason was to be released from his contract led to a number of English and Australian clubs confirming they were seeking to sign Mason to a contract for the 2008 season.[21][22][23] After the Roosters were able to release back-rower Ashley Harrison to the Gold Coast Titans and considered releasing other players, the club was able to make an offer for Mason. On 15 November 2007 it was confirmed that Mason had signed a three-year deal with the Sydney Roosters.[24]

Sydney Roosters

Mason while playing for the Roosters in 2008.
In February 2008 Mason and his new Roosters team-mate Anthony Tupou were charged with urinating in a public place during a visit to Port Macquarie.[25] The Roosters dominated through the regular season finishing in 4th spot and in August 2008 Mason was named in both the preliminary 46-man Kangaroos squad for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup and the Tonga training squad.[26][27][28] However in the final regular game of the season Mason ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and took no part in the Roosters Finals Campaign.

Mason missed the Roosters first game of the 2009 season after they were trashed by South Sydney Rabbitohs 52–12. Mason returned in Round 2, against the Canberra Raiders they were victors 30–4. In May 2009 Mason was fined $2,000 by Sydney Roosters after being photographed urinating in a public place.[29] He was also dropped to the Newtown Jets. The Roosters finished the year in last spot. When Brian Smith took over the coaching role at the Roosters he told Mason he was not in his future plans at the Roosters and his services were no long needed there. Interest in Mason was said to be high with a number of high profile rugby union and rugby league clubs chasing Mason's signature, Japanese Rugby Union teams, French Super League team Catalans Dragons and the Queensland Reds were just some of the clubs after Mason.[30][31][32] He was given extended leave from the Roosters to find a new club.[33][34] There were also some rumours he was going to join the Newcastle Knights late in the year, but the Knights denied any relation to him.[35] The North Queensland Cowboys made a late play for Willie Mason and held talks with him on 2 February 2010[36] If the Cowboys had rejected Mason the Newcastle Knights were poised to make a deal with him as they had lost prop Danny Wicks[37]

North Queensland Cowboys

On 5 February 2010, Mason agreed to a one-year contract with the North Queensland Cowboys.[38] On the same day that Lote Tuqiri announced that he would be returning to the NRL it was announced that Willie Mason had signed a one-year deal with the North Queensland Cowboys.[39] He made his Cowboys debut off the bench in a thrilling 30–24 loss to the Broncos in Round 1, 2010.

Super League

In September 2011, Mason signed a 3-year contract with Hull Kingston Rovers, pending a successful working visa application.[40] Six months into his contract, Hull KR were forced to release Mason as he was unable to obtain a Tongan passport that would have enabled him to come off their overseas quota.[41]

Rugby union

After being released by Hull KR, Mason signed with Top 14 rugby union side, Toulon in April 2011. He was seen by Toulon as a possible successor to former Bulldogs teammate and past Toulon centre Sonny Bill Williams.[42] In June Mason was selected to play for Barbarian F.C. from the interchange bench in their victory against Wales.

In December Toulon agreed to release Mason as he was reportedly unhappy in rugby union.[43] Mason was described by Toulon fans as "the biggest flop" in the club's history.[44]

Newcastle Knights

On 18 April 2012, it was confirmed Mason had signed with the Wayne Bennett coached Newcastle Knights for the remainder of the 2012 NRL season.[45] He made his Newcastle debut at Hunter Stadium in their Round 8 defeat of the Penrith Panthers. Mason's younger brother Rodney was also playing rugby league with the Newcastle Knights at the time.[46][47] On 15 November 2012, Mason re-signed with the Knights for 2 years.[48]


  1. "Willie Mason switches from league to union with Toulon". bbc.co.uk. 25 May 2011. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/13493098.stm. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
  2. "Mason a scapegoat for league's troubles". The Sydney Morning Herald. 27 May 2004. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/05/26/1085461830620.html?from=storylhs.
  3. . http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/sport/nrl/player/0,26753,100040-131,00.html. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Dead link |date=__DATE__ |$B=[dead link] }}
  4. Willie Mason at yesterdayshero.com.au
  5. Magnay, Jacquelin (26 March 2004). "Mason to play despite drug scandal". The Age (Melbourne). http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/03/25/10799a9784707.html. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  6. Magnay, Jacquelin (26 March 2004). "Mason to line up for Dogs". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/03/25/1079939788164.html. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  7. Masters, Roy (25 March 2004). "Bulldogs star Mason failed drug test". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/03/24/1079939719877.html. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  8. . http://foxsports.news.com.au/story/0,8659,19422742-23214,00.html. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Dead link |date=__DATE__ |$B=[dead link] }}
  9. . http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,19941208-5006066,00.html. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Dead link |date=__DATE__ |$B=[dead link] }}
  10. . http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19989772-2722,00.html. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Dead link |date=__DATE__ |$B=[dead link] }}
  11. http://ninemsn.sportal.com.au/default.aspx?s=leaguedisplay&id=92080
  12. "Anzac Test Match 2007". rugbyleagueproject.org. Shawn Dollin, Andrew Ferguson and Bill Bates. http://www.rugbyleagueproject.org/matches/anzac-test-match-2007/australia-vs-new-zealand.html. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  13. Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 2007. Story:"Williams, Mason in nightclub row"[1]
  14. Phelps, James (27 July 2007). "Tommy Raudonikis takes aim at Willie Mason". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/mason-most-hated-again/story-e6freuy9-1225694614070. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  15. http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/mason-in-outburst-at-reporter/2007/04/16/1176575692319.html Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 2007. Story: "Mason in outburst at reporter"
  16. http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,,21562854-23214,00.html Fox Sport, 16 April 2007. Story: "Mason in trouble again".
  17. http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/im-sorry-says-silly-willie/2007/04/16/1176575727971.html Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 2007. Story: "I'm sorry, says silly Willie"
  18. Fox Sports, 26 April 2007. Story:"Willie nearly blows deal"
  19. "Willie Mason threatens to quit Bulldogs". The Daily Telegraph. 2007-10-31. http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22679575-5001021,00.html. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
  20. "Bulldogs, mauler Mason part ways". The Daily Herald. 2007-11-01. http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/bulldogs-mason-part-ways/2007/10/31/1193618974139.html. Retrieved 2007-10-31. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Dead link |date=__DATE__ |$B=[dead link] }}
  21. "Aussie ace Mason holds Hull talks". BBC. 5 November 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_league/super_league/hull/7079161.stm=. Retrieved 2007-11-05. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Dead link |date=__DATE__ |$B=[dead link] }}
  22. "Wigan move for Aussie ace Mason". BBC. 10 November 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_league/7079161.stm. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  23. "Roosters line up big Willie for three years as Dragons, Wigan drop out of race". LeagueHQ. 14 November 2007. http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/roosters-line-up-big-willie/2007/11/13/1194766676248.html. Retrieved 2007-11-14. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Dead link |date=__DATE__ |$B=[dead link] }}
  24. "NRL stars fined for peeing in public". News.com.au. 19 February 2008. http://www.news.com.au/top-stories/nrl-stars-fined-for-peeing-in-public/story-e6frfkp9-1111115592786. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  25. Liam FitzGibbon (1 August 2008). "Surprises in Kangaroos squad". "Fox Sports News (Australia)". http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,24111780-23214,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-02.
  26. "Veteran Lockyer named in Australian squad". International Herald Tribune. 1 August 2008. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/08/01/sports/AS-RGL-Australia-Squad.php. Retrieved 2008-08-02.
  27. "Tug-of-war over Mason". Sky Sports. 5 August 2008. http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,12196_3935853,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  28. "Willie Mason fined for urinating outside Golden Sheaf Hotel". news.com.au. 18 May 2009. http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/sport/nrl/story/0,27074,25501554-5016552,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-20.
  29. Halloran, Jessica (1 November 2009). "Fittler wishes Smith best of luck". The Sunday Telegraph. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/fittler-wishes-smith-best-of-luck/story-e6frexnr-1225793106485. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  30. Heming, Wayne (7 December 2009). "Greg Bird signs with Titans". The Daily Telegraph. AAP. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/greg-bird-signs-with-titans/story-e6frexnr-1225807623614. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  31. Riccio, David (21 November 2009). "Bird key to Willie's future". The Sunday Telegraph. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/bird-key-to-willies-future/story-e6frexni-1225801624306. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  32. Phelps, James (17 December 2009). "Mason linked to Super League". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/mason-linked-to-super-league/story-e6frexnr-1225811147997. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  33. "Crusaders eye double swoop". Sky Sports. 26 December 2009. http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,12196_5803851,00.html.
  34. Massoud, Josh (30 December 2009). "Newcastle's Willie Mason rumour is wonky". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/newcastles-willie-mason-rumour-wonky/story-e6frexnr-1225814506197. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  35. Heming, Wayne (1 February 2010). "Tomorrow is D-Day for Willie Mason". The Daily Telegraph. AAP. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/tomorrow-is-d-day-for-willie-mason/story-e6frexnr-1225825582463. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  36. Toohey, Barry (2 February 2010). "Newcastle Knights join the hunt for Roosters reject Willie Mason". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/now-the-knights-are-after-big-willie/story-e6freuy9-1225825690380. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  37. "Mason opts for Cowboys: report". Sydney Morning Herald. 5 February 2010. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-sport/mason-opts-for-cowboys-report-20100205-ngie.html.
  38. . http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/sport/nrl/comments/0,26748,26679182-5003409,00.html. {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Dead link |date=__DATE__ |$B=[dead link] }}
  39. Wilson, Andy (2 January 2011). "Willie Mason gets Tongan prime minister to clear way to Hull KR". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2011/jan/02/hull-kr-willie-mason-super-league.
  40. "Hull KR release forward Willie Mason from contract after six games". The Guardian (London). 21 May 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2011/may/21/hull-kr-release-willie-mason.
  41. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/nrl/mason-a-french-rugby-target/story-e6frfgbo-1226041761085
  42. "Mason set to quit rugby for NRL return". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 December 2011. http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/mason-set-to-quit-rugby-for-nrl-return-20111210-1oopx.html.
  43. [2]
  44. "Willie Mason signed by Knights". The Sydney Morning Herald. 18 April 2012. http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/willie-mason-signed-by-knights-20120418-1x70l.html.
  45. http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,21184155-23214,00.html
  46. Massoud, Josh (29 December 2009). "Newcastle's Willie Mason rumour is wonky". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/sport/nrl/story/0,26746,26535171-5003409,00.html.
  47. http://www.newcastleknights.com.au/news-display/Mason-officially-extends-contract/65936

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