There was a time when every team in the NRL would be falling over each other in a bid to sign Willie Mason, but the pickings are a lot slimmer for the former Australia international these days. Having ended his time with Manly after just one season, the 35-year-old is back on the market and looking to remain in the NRL. Despite a number of offers from the Super League, most notably the Catalan Dragons, Mason has set his stall out on securing a move to another team in Australia, although it remains to be seen whether he will get his wish.
So, let’s take a closer look at the options available to the experienced forward.
Remain in the NRL: Mason’s number one option would be to remain in the NRL. While Manly didn’t fight too hard to hang on to Mason at the end of last season, the veteran’s spell with the club showed he still has what it takes to perform at the highest level. As well as averaging between 10.2 and 11.6 possessions a game, the forward’s defensive stats showed what he brings to a team on that front, racking up between 15.8 and 17.3 tackles a game.
He may be the oldest player in the league, and no longer the strongest or the quickest, but the consistency he showed in an average Manly team may well be enough to convince another NRL team to take a punt on him. Mason’s agent has claimed his client has attracted the interest of a number of clubs since his departure from Manly, but as yet there has been no movement for the former Bulldogs, Roosters, Cowboys and Knights man.
Super League: Having come close to signing for the Catalan Dragons earlier in the year, Mason is definitely open to the idea of moving to Europe. While that deal fell through, the French side are believed to still be interested in signing the veteran forward, as are a number of English Super League clubs. A string of southern hemisphere players have enjoyed success in the south of France with the Dragons, and the club, 10/1 with bet365 at the time of writing to win the Super League this season, would welcome such an experienced player to their ranks.
Mason spent an ill-fated six-game spell playing for Hull KR in 2011, with the club ending his contract six months in to a three-year deal. That experience might have soured the forward’s view on England, but if the rest of his options run out, Mason could well find the thought of signing for an English Super League team actually quite attractive. He might not be a viable long-term signing, but for a club looking for a player capable of making an immediate impact, Mason could be ideal.
Retire: It may end up being that retirement is the only real option for Mason if no NRL move materialises and he decides he doesn’t want to make the move to Europe. While it’s been a career of ups and downs, which ended in typically colourful fashion, Mason can be extremely proud of his time in rugby league.