Willie Mason has taken on a shock assistant coaching role at former club Canterbury Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs have been sharing photos of their pre-season training sessions, with Mason there in full gear alongside head coach Trent Barrett as well as general manager of football Phil Gould.
— Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (@NRL_Bulldogs) November 15, 2021
The controversial and bullocking forward registered 148 appearances for the Bulldogs over a period of eight seasons and played a major role in the NRL premiership-winning side in 2004, claiming the Clive Churchill medal in the Grand Final for a stellar display.
Mason played 310 games in his rugby league career in the NRL and the Super League, having an ill-fated spell at Hull KR as well as enjoying himself in the south of France with the Catalans Dragons.
He also represented New South Wales in 13 State of Origin games and played 24 matches for Australia.
And, Mason was as keen as mustard to return to where it all started.
“I don’t have a traditional role – I’m basically Gus’s not-so-little right-hand man,” Mason told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with Gus, and I played with ‘Baz’ [coach Trent Barrett] at Origin level and on Kangaroos tours.
“I was asked to do some stuff with the club last year, but there was COVID, and I didn’t like some of the politics going on. But I have a good relationship with new chairman John Khoury, and when Gus got involved, it made it easy to come back.
“Gus helped build that club. I know he’s passionate about the juniors and rediscovering that culture and DNA, which the club seems to have lost the last three or four years.
“When we had meetings, I said, ‘I know the club, I know the DNA, I know what I can bring to the club’. I’m passionate about helping the team and the juniors develop physically and mentally.”
Boss Barrett needs help wherever he can find it from after a less than successful first season in charge of Canterbury.
The Bulldogs won just three games and finished at the bottom of the NRL ladder, but the club has made a number of high profile signings such as Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton ahead of what is hoped to be a much improved 2022.