Prop rotation works best for Newcastle
Veteran Newcastle front-rower Willie Mason has admitted he discusses with Knights coach Wayne Bennett about the possibility of starting from the interchange bench on a weekly basis.
Mason, who turned 34 this week, started from the interchange for the second time this season in the Knights 26-12 victory over Canberra on Saturday afternoon.
With young prop Zane Tetevano being awarded his first start of the season for the Knights following a broken hand suffered in the trials, Mason has full confidence with the prop rotation between himself, Tetevano and former NSW Origin representative Kade Snowden.
"With me playing off the bench it gives a lot more impact... a lot more punch, a bit more experience so I can just sit back and watch the game and not run into brick walls for the first 20 minutes so I'll probably play for another three years," Mason joked.
"It's a discussion between me and [Wayne Bennett] every week and depending on who we're playing. In this day-and-age it is a 17-man game – it always has been."
With the dramas surrounding the Knights on and off the field and with the hamstring injury to key player Jarrod Mullen, the Knights had an indifferent start to their season up until Saturday's confident 26-12 away win over the Canberra Raiders. That victory – with Mullen playing his first game of the season – was a significant turnaround from the previous week's 28-2 defeat to North Queensland.
"This time last week was probably the worst time I've had at the Knights I reckon after that loss to the Cowboys," Mason noted.
"It just shows how long a week of football can be, how good it can be and how bad a week can be – we went through a massive rollercoaster ride there.
"Having to go up there on a pretty tough road trip to North Queensland up there on the Monday and then travel to Canberra on the Saturday was awful and to beat [the Raiders] – and they're in some pretty good form – it took a great effort to win down there."
Heading into this Friday night's game against a Brisbane Broncos side looking to avoid a third straight loss, Mason believes that there are no more excuses for the Knights moving forward.
"We've fiddled around a little bit for six rounds and we got it right a couple of times and we won some games but we've been in some games that we've lost so now's the time we build some momentum into Origin. There are no more excuses, especially Friday night," Mason said.
"Friday night in Newcastle is always great. There's not really been one standout team this year – everyone's had their moments – so everyone's trying to get some consistency going in their year. We're one of those teams and so are Brisbane. They're coming down here to take two points and we're trying to get them."
Whether he starts off the bench or not remains to be seen, though Mason and his Knights will have to be at their very best if they're going to nullify a Broncos forward pack chock full of talent.