Willie Mason’s stint with Toulon ends in bitter disappointment

Former Australian rugby league international Willie Mason has left RC Toulon after being released by the French Top 14 club. The controversial forward has featured only 3 times for the French side and has been branded ‘the biggest flop’ in the club’s history.

The player has been plagued by off-field problems that include urinating in a public place, abusing radio reporters, and other drink related mishaps. The former Sydney Roosters player also had an ill-fated spell at Super League club Hull KR in 2011 that ended in him being released 6 months into his contract. He was then signed by Toulon who saw him as a successor to New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams, who had just left the club to sign for seven time Super rugby champions Canterbury Crusaders. He failed miserably in the south of France after new signings Matt Giteau and Mathieu Bastareaud nailed down the 12 and 13 positions respectively.

He will now return to Australia where he will link up with younger brother Rodney for NRL side Newcastle Knights. The 97 and 2001 champions have signed Mason on an incentive based contract, meaning the 24 test veteran will have to be on his best behavior if he wants to play at all.

The second row forward has been signed for the remainder of the 2012 season and with the Knights lying tenth in the Telstra Premiership, Mason will hope to make an immediate impact and help his team climb the league. The one time Barbarian spoke to the press this week and admitted his thanks in having the opportunity to play for the club once again.

“I am grateful that Wayne and the Club have shown confidence in me to contribute to the Club and I will not be wasting the opportunity to not only perform on the field but to contribute to the Knights strong community programs.”

We all know how much of thug Mason can be, but I think this could be his last chance. He’s returning to his hometown and I think the CEO of the Newcastle Knights has pulled off a brave move here. The 32 year old is a talented player and massively physical, but a lot of the time he tends to use his physicality in the wrong situation. Think back to the famous Mason vs. Jamie Peacock and Stuart Fielden incident and your minds should hopefully be refreshed.

Fighting aside it seems Newcastle Knights have identified Mason as a role model at the club, and they will hope to use him as a mentor to many of the younger players in the squad. There’s no doubt the guy has talent and bundles of experience, but can we see younger players respecting this troublesome individual? In my opinion Mason represents everything you don’t want in an athlete and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Knights decide to terminate his contract at the end of the season. The player is carrying some extremely heavy wages, which is one of the reasons Toulon wanted rid of the guy.

To be honest I’m not sure if anyone cares about the return of Mason and I’m sure there will be better players to come from the Newcastle region. It’s now a case of him performing well and finishing his career in style. Otherwise people will remember Mason as a tarnished athlete who wasted a pretty decent career.

by Dan Newman