WILLIE Mason has vowed to leave a legacy and be remembered for his on-field deeds after signing what is likely to be the last contract of his rugby league career.
The 32-year-old announced yesterday he had accepted a two-year extension with the Knights, the club he supported as a child growing up in Toronto and who last season threw him an NRL lifeline.
A larger-than-life character, Mason’s capacity for attracting headlines has sometimes overshadowed an outstanding career that has earned him 24 Test caps, 13 NSW jerseys and the Clive Churchill Medal after Canterbury’s 2004 grand final triumph.
But as he approaches his twilight years the towering forward wants to leave the game’s fans with a lasting impression.
‘‘The legacy part in the next couple of years is a big thing,’’ Mason said. ‘‘But I think everyone is going to remember me for different things. I’ve had a pretty colourful career.
‘‘It’s been pretty good. I’ve loved every minute and I haven’t regretted anything.
‘‘I’ll be remembered for a lot of things, but I want to be remembered as a football player.’’
Asked if two more years in the NRL would pull him up, Mason said: ‘‘I’ll be 34. I don’t really want to play until I’m 38. I’m not Steve Menzies playing out in the centres.’’
He said he was ‘‘a lot smarter’’, a better all-round player than he was 10 years ago, when he burst onto the scene with a trademark afro haircut and became a regular in representative teams, and had matured off the field.
‘‘I don’t want to keep making the same mistakes, otherwise you end up on the scrapheap,’’ he said.
Mason was reluctant to make predictions about Newcastle’s chances next season, after finishing 12th this year.
But the veteran big-game player said he had ‘‘high expectations’’ of featuring in the finals, playing in a rugged pack bolstered by renowned enforcers Jeremy Smith, Beau Scott and David Fa’alogo.
‘‘For years I’ve battled against Jeremy Smith and Beau Scott,’’ he said.
‘‘They’re two blokes I don’t really like playing against.’’
Having accepted a cut-price $40,000 deal to join Newcastle last season, Mason said he struck a handshake deal with coach Wayne Bennett months ago to extend his stay.
‘‘I’ve never really been about money,’’ he said.
‘‘I was at the Dogs for years and took pay cuts just to stay in a good team.’’
Mason made his Knights debut in round eight and did not miss a game for the rest of the season, prompting speculation that he could be in line for a NSW Origin recall next year if his form continues.
‘‘I’ve been watching Origin for the last three or four years, and if I play to the best of my ability, I’m pretty sure I could handle Origin,’’ he said.
● The NRL will take no further action against Danny Buderus after his short-lived stint as a coaching consultant with the ACT Brumbies rugby club.
A spokesman said the NRL was ‘‘comfortable’’ with the Knights’ explanation.