Mason’s money not in cap yet

WILLIE Mason’s bargain-basement contract will only be factored into Newcastle’s $350,000 second-tier salary cap when he plays an NRL game.

The Knights signed Mason on Wednesday for the rest of the season. He has reportedly agreed to terms on a deal worth a $40,000 sign-on fee, match payments and performance incentives.

Like all NRL clubs, the Knights can spend up to $4.3million this season on their top 25 players, and that is tipped to increase to $5million from next year after the Australian Rugby League Commission signs a new television rights agreement.

In addition, clubs are free to spend as much as they like on players outside their top 25 but can only use up to $350,000 worth of that talent in their NRL team.

Mason is not among Newcastle’s top 25 highest-paid players, so his contract will be included in their second-tier cap. Similarly, former Eels and Sharks playmaker Albert Kelly will only be considered in Newcastle’s second-tier cap calculations if he plays NRL for the Knights this year.

Kelly has signed a Newcastle Rugby League contract with Central but has also signed a NSW Rugby League contract to play NSW Cup for the Knights. He made his debut against Windsor Wolves last Saturday and has been named to start at five-eighth against Illawarra tomorrow.

‘‘Willie Mason, Albert Kelly, Daine Laurie, Robbie Rochow, all those blokes sit in our second tier,’’ Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said.

‘‘Apart from your top 25, you’re allowed to use $350,000 worth of your second-tier blokes.’’

● Parramatta halfback Chris Sandow has been ruled out of Sunday’s NSW Cup match for Wentworthville due to a shoulder injury.

The former South Sydney playmaker was ordered to play reserve grade for the Eels’ feeder club against Canterbury after a disappointing start to the NRL season after his big-money move.

Sandow had hoped to return to see his family in Queensland, as NRL took a break due to representative fixtures, but was named to play for the Magpies by coach Stephen Kearney.

But the club’s medical staff believe the AC joint he strained the defeat by Cronulla last Sunday has not healed sufficiently.

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