Willy Mason at the Legends of League Tournament at Central Coast Stadium. Picture: Tim Hunter
Willy Mason at the Legends of League Tournament at Central Coast Stadium. Picture: Tim Hunter

Big Willie Mason putting some bite back in the Bulldogs

WILLIE Mason knows potential when he sees it.

Which is why he is pumped about the future for his success-starved Canterbury Bulldogs, despite their youthful roster.

Mason was patrolling the sideline on Tuesday as the players were put through their paces on the punishing Wanda sand dunes in Cronulla.

The players were physically fatigued under the hot sun but pushed the pain aside to complete the task at hand.

Mason was heartened by the effort and said the Bulldogs had the talent to climb up the ladder after three years without reaching the finals.

However, he said the excuses had to end now, especially from the more experienced players in the squad.

"If you have played 40 to 50 games, the honeymoon period is over and it is time to perform," he said.

Preseason and those Wanda sand dunes are tough work for the Bulldogs.
Preseason and those Wanda sand dunes are tough work for the Bulldogs.

"It is why you are on an NRL roster, to play in the NRL and not to play reserve grade.

"I know what that feeling is like as a young player, you question yourself.

"But these guys with 40 games under their belt start to feel like they belong.

"The Bulldogs aren't the sort of club that thinks, 'let's rebuild for five years'. They don't do that because they want to win.

"The fans also expect that. I expect that as a fan of the club and a former player.

"There is pressure when it comes to playing for the Bulldogs. You need to perform and that is why they are trying to get as many ex-players involved to help."

Coach Dean Pay wants his young Bulldogs to recapture the trademark toughness from the club's glory years.

It was a no-brainer for Pay to reach out to club legends such as Mason, Mark O'Meley and Brent Sherwin after they helped build one of the most successful eras in Canterbury's history.

"Dean called me about six weeks ago about his interest in getting a few players in from those dominant years in the early 2000s," Mason said.

"He said what we did during that era is something that the current team really reflects on and wants to try to emulate.

"They want to get my mindset on how I approached games, the camaraderie and how we built that team.

"It was good to talk to some young kids and try and pass on the mentality we had during those successful years."

Mason and Andrew Ryan with the 2004 NRL premiership trophy.
Mason and Andrew Ryan with the 2004 NRL premiership trophy.

The mid-2000s was the club's second most dominant period behind the 1980s, when Canterbury went toe-to-toe with arch rivals Parramatta to claim four premierships.

With players such as Mason, Andrew Ryan, Matt Utai and Steve Price, the Bulldogs won the 2004 premiership and finished in the top three in four out of six seasons from 2001 to 2006.

They were one of the most successful clubs during that time alongside Brisbane, Melbourne and Manly.

Mason said the secret to the Bulldogs' success was simple.

"There was just a mentality when you put that jersey on, you weren't meant to lose," he said.

"You were supposed to win, regardless of how many games you'd played, where you were from or whatever.

"That is what the current team is trying to get back to. In the next few seasons they will push for a top-eight spot."

Mason is excited about the Bulldogs' youthful promise.

Bulldogs players train at the Wanda sand dunes.
Bulldogs players train at the Wanda sand dunes.

"Just the size of the kids blew me away," he said.

"Reimis Smith is six-foot-four, over 100kg and he is a winger.

"Lachlan Lewis is also a big kid for a halfback.

"We are only two weeks into preseason, so a lot of players are going to put on more muscle and lose body fat.

"Have a look at some of these kids around February next year and they are going to be animals."

Mason said recruitment, self-belief and a fast start were the keys to Canterbury having success next year.

"I was speaking to Dean about their attitude in the final 12 games compared to their first 12 when they were losing," he said.

"It was just simplifying their game plan, completing at over 90 per cent, defending like their lives depended on it.

"When you don't have the talent of the Roosters, for example, they must do all the little things well to win games."

News Corp Australia


72 people face charges in loaded Gympie court day

premium_icon 72 people face charges in loaded Gympie court day

Scores of people to face two Gympie courts today. Full list here

How to make the most of your Gympie Times subscription

premium_icon How to make the most of your Gympie Times subscription

Being a subscriber, you are in the box seat for the best local action in the Gympie...

Don't miss out on local news: $1 a week for first 12 weeks

premium_icon Don't miss out on local news: $1 a week for first 12 weeks

Deal gives you access to local, regional and metro News sites