Mason comes out swinging for Tinkler

NEWCASTLE prop Willie Mason says he and his teammates have no fears about being paid, amid concerns over Knights owner Nathan Tinkler’s ongoing financial woes.

With his racing and mining empire seemingly crumbling, serious questions have been raised over whether Tinkler can prop up the Knights.

But it doesn’t appear to be a concern for the Knights players, with Mason confident the club would be supported by the NRL should Tinkler’s money problems grow.

‘‘I don’t think anybody’s really worried about payments because regardless, whatever happens, the NRL looks after you anyway,’’ Mason said.

‘‘It’s not like if he falls over we don’t get paid – no one’s worried about money.

‘‘I haven’t heard any [of the players] say anything about Tinks.’’

Mason, who said he regarded Tinkler as a friend, denied the mining magnate’s image had been tarnished in Newcastle.

On top of arms of his racing and mining business being locked in legal battles, his Hunter Sports Group is being sued by the NSW government for almost $600,000 in outstanding rent for the Knights’ use of their home ground. He has also had his private jet and helicopter repossessed.

‘‘Tinks is well respected in Newcastle and he’s done a lot for the whole region,’’ Mason said.  ‘‘I think  to  the media, he’s just that dude that everyone wants to pick on and just hammer him about his money.

 ‘‘They don’t really know what’s going on. They don’t know how much money he’s got. I don’t know how much money he’s got. 

‘‘They just keep making up stories and that sort of stuff. I know Tinks as a person – he’s a great dude and he’s a friend of mine. There’s nothing I can say to bag Tinks. He’s done a great deal to help Newcastle be the club that it is now.

‘‘Newcastle people love Tinks, what he’s done for the stadiums, what he’s done for the Jets and the Knights and every single sport up there. They love him.’’ 

  Meanwhile,  Mason was adamant NRL stars could not afford to back down in their fight for more money. 

But he also felt that most players were not prepared for the consequences of a strike.

Players and the NRL will head back to the negotiating table today as they seek to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.

The players  are seeking a greater slice of rugby league’s new-found riches and  have threatened to boycott February’s All-Stars game should their demands – including a minimum wage of $80,000 compared with the current $55,000 – not be met.

ARL Commission chairman John Grant seemingly called their bluff after reportedly declaring that the ARLC would set the salary cap on its own if the players and RLPA failed to compromise.

Mason said Grant’s comments represented a line in the sand.

‘‘I’m glad he  said that because then it will make us really stick together and hopefully band closer and get it resolved,’’ Mason said. ‘‘He’s said his thoughts and now we can either back right down and say ‘okay you can do it your way’ or really bond together and make a stand.’’   AAP

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