Over the guilt he felt from hurting people, Roosters giant Mose Masoe is dedicating season 2012 to his mentor, the late, great Arthur Beetson.
The late Arthur Beetson would’ve been filthy to find out one of his final discoveries disobeyed him over the summer.
“He used to tell me, because he said me and him were similar [in size], that I had to watch what I eat,” Roosters enforcer Mose Masoe recalls.
“He said, ‘In the off-season, eat as much as you want. When you come back to training, you’ve got to put your head down and start training hard.’ He said to relax in the pre-season and at the time, I took that on board.”
And in the summer of 2011-12, did he?
“I ate, but not as much as I normally do,” Masoe replies.
It was late in 2007 when the first Indigenous person to captain Australia in any sport first laid eyes on the raw but physically rare specimen that was Masoe. And straightaway he knew, with all the 40-plus years of rugby league experience within him, that the half-Kiwi, half-Samoan would be a success.
Only problem was that the feelings, at the time, were hardly mutual.
“He recruited me from Wellington and I think it was the year before he left the Roosters,” Masoe says. “He came over with my manager and we had dinner and it’s funny, I didn’t know he was an Immortal. He was so down to earth and we were just having a bit of a laugh.
“But after dinner I went home and looked him up on the computer and I was like, ‘Far out, that dude’s an Immortal.’ I saw all this stuff about ‘Artie’ Beetson and I realised it was an honour to have dinner with him. On my first grade debut he gave me a call and said, ‘I knew you could do it.’”
Much to his mother’s insistence, Masoe spent most of his childhood on the less physical fields of hockey as a representative player for Wellington before finally getting the go-ahead to play touch football.
But with a family history that includes uncles Chris Masoe, an All Black, and Maselino Masoe, a former heavyweight boxer, Mose was always headed for the heavy-duty game of rugby league, where he was going to be the kid that parents would scream was five years over the age limit.
“I used to always feel sorry for hurting other kids and stuff like that,” Masoe says.
“It’s not in my nature to hurt someone on the field. I used to apologise to any of the kids when I smashed them. I hurt a couple of people when I was in the under-20s. Sometimes when they got knocked out from a hit… that’s the scariest because you don’t know [if they’re OK]. When you see them dazed or knocked out, you feel sorry for them.”
Things got so bad Roosters coach Brian Smith had him see a sports psychologist to get him in a different frame of mind on the field.
“It was because I had a couple of games where I wasn’t as dominant
as I was earlier in my first grade career,” Masoe says.
“Once I smashed one person and I felt sorry for them for the rest of the game and it takes my mind off the game.
“Normally I just have to pretend that I’m someone else on the field. I used to watch players like Ruben Wiki and I just think to myself, All right, today you’ve just got to play like Ruben Wiki.
“After speaking to a sports psychologist, he taught me little ways of putting myself in the game, like not feeling sorry for people for 80 minutes and just pretending that you’re someone else.
“Smithy just says there’s a time and a place. If we’re behind by two and we need them to make a mistake, we’ve got to come up with a big play.”
And those big plays can be seen on most of the Roosters highlight reels of last season, of which were few and far between. But there was enough on there for Smith to hand his enforcer a new three-year deal last month, and Masoe says he can’t wait to repay both big Artie and the club.
“I was pretty sad [to hear about Beetson’s death], just knowing that he brought me to the club,” Masoe says.
“It’s kind of my year to give back to the club. The past two years were about me getting to know how to play NRL. This year’s the time where I have to pay the club and Artie back for everything they’ve done for me.”