'Mason is a must': Hannant selects his Test replacement

Injured Bulldogs prop Ben Hannant has urged Kangaroos selectors to recall veteran forward Willie Mason when the Australian side to face New Zealand next week is picked on Sunday night.<br><br>The Aussies are in the midst of a front-row injury crisis with Hannant, who picked up a knee injury against Brisbane last week that will sideline him for a month, joining Steve Price and young gun Aiden Tolman, who has strained knee medial ligaments and is out six weeks, on the sidelines for the one-off Test on May 7.<br><br>Their absence opens the door for a new-look forward pack next week, but Hannant believes selectors must bite the bullet and recall Mason – despite a three-year absence from the Test arena.<br><br>“I think Willie is starting to show some really good form, so he could be a dark horse,” Hannant told NRL.com this morning.<br><br>“He’s been going great for North Queensland this year. He can play both front and back row, which is always a bonus, and he brings a bit of impact off the bench as well.”<br><br>With New Zealand set to name a powerful pack boasting the likes of Parramatta prop Fuifui Moimoi, Melbourne pair Jeff Lima and Adam Blair and Panthers dynamo Frank Pritchard, Hannant said Mason would provide the X-factor Australian needed.<br><br>“He is very big and powerful,” he said. “But he brings a lot of skill to his game as well.<br><br>“There is not much that can stop Willie when he is in his best form and he looks like he is in pretty good form at the moment.”<br><br>Mason is one of a number of players in contention for a bench spot behind incumbent Petero Civoniceva and St George Illawarra’s Michael Weyman, who look certain to be the Kangaroos’ starting duo.<br><br>And he is known to be on the selectors’ minds following Des Morris’ admission in Big League magazine this week that his name is certain to be raised on Sunday night.<br><br>Brisbane’s Sam Thaiday and Canberra’s David Shillington top the list of other contenders after being part of Australia’s Four Nations squad last year, but the list of challengers is lengthy with Cronulla pair Luke Douglas and Kade Snowden impressing and Eels youngster Tim Mannah also in fine form.<br><br>“It probably depends on who is eligible because there are so many out at the moment,” Hannant said. “But they could do worse than pick Willie.”<br><br>Hannant will be sorely missed by both Australia and the Bulldogs over the coming weeks but insisted he would be back in time to line up for Queensland when the State of Origin series kicks off on May 26.<br><br>“I’ll be back, for sure,” he said. “It’s obviously frustrating not to be available for Australia but I’m still young and there are plenty of years left to play Test footy.<br><br>“I just need to get back out there and be consistent and hopefully I’ll be right at the end of the year when the Four Nations is on again.”<br><br>Hannant is one of four Bulldogs missing for tonight’s clash with traditional rivals Parramatta, with five-eighth Ben Roberts, back-rower Yileen Gordon and strike centre Josh Morris also picking up injuries last week.<br><br>But he said his recovery was coming along well with a possible return in as little as a fortnight.<br><br>“I won’t start training until next week, hopefully, and then it will just be a case of getting fit and strong as quickly as possible before Origin,” he said.<br><br><b>Late NRL news:</b><br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Canberra has taken a massive hit with four key players – Alan Tongue, Adam Mogg, Josh Miller and Shaun Fensom – all ruled out through injury ahead of tomorrow’s clash with the Warriors in New Zealand. Halfback Josh McCrone returns.<br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Newcastle five-eighth Ben Rogers is in doubt for tonight’s trip to Brisbane, with Scott Dureau on standby. Broncos speedster Denan Kemp returns from broken ribs suffered last month.<br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Melbourne star Greg Inglis has overcome an ankle injury and looks certain to play against North Queensland tomorrow.<br>