Webb says fans will love Mason - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Webb says fans will love Mason

By Wayne Heming 03/03/2010 01:40:24 PM Comments (0)

Willie Mason and the Cowboys, it just might be an NRL finals fit.

Both have been disappointing performers in recent times but together controversial new signing Mason and the North Queensland team could help each other turn things around.

The jury is out and the verdict won't be delivered until September.

Not all North Queensland fans welcomed Mason's signing. Some threatened to shred their jumpers when the club announced they had secured his services for 2010.

But new teammate Carl Webb didn't expect that opposition to last long, saying: "They'll all love Willie once he tramples a few opposition players into the Dairy Farmer's (Stadium) turf".

Webb is spot on.

If Mason rediscovers the sort of form that made him an automatic Origin and Test selection as recently as two years ago, Cowboys fans will forgive his "redneck" comment about Queensland fans in 2008.

Mason polarises fans, you either love him or hate him.

But he also has a great ability to excite them if he plays his aggressive brand of football and rips in, having put his serious knee injury in late 2008 behind him.

He has ground to make up after a late start to pre-season with the club following his early February signing but coach Neil Henry has already detected some very promising signs.

"Willie has settled in well and he's found a little bit of form over the last two weeks," said Henry, anticipating even more improvement ahead of the blockbuster season-opener against Brisbane.

"He's been an enthusiastic addition to the squad, his willingness to encourage our younger players has been excellent.

"I'm confident he'll contribute significantly to our team this season."

After finishing a lowly 15th and 12th in the last two seasons, North Queensland is gambling on Mason's desire to get his career back on track by pursuing a premiership alongside champion halfback Johnathan Thurston, to pay big dividends.

It's been a frustrating wait for Cowboys fans expecting big things after their team made the 2005 grand final where they lost to Wests Tigers.

But the champagne is still on ice and Cowboys' are still in pursuit of a maiden premiership.

Any team boasting Thurston, Matt Bowen, Willie Tonga, Aaron Payne, Luke O'Donnell, Mason, and Webb has to be respected.

Thurston hits the 2010 competition in hot form, having been man-of-the-match for the Indigenous All Stars in their heart-warming victory over the NRL All Stars.

He also sent a clear message to first-up opponents Brisbane by setting up two tries in the Cowboys' impressive trial win over the Titans in Darwin.

"JT has certainly freshened up following a good break from football after the Four Nations series," said Henry.

"Willie gives him another big man to go to in attack and a few players, notably Manase Manuokafoa and a couple of our younger forwards, Jimmy Tamou and Steve Rapira, are more comfortable training up here after their second full pre-season."

Throw in the likes of Antonio Kaufusi, Steve Southern, Matt Scott and Manuokafoa into the forward mix and the Cowboys can flex as much muscle as any pack in the NRL.

Key players Payne and Tonga have both made successful comebacks from shoulder surgery in trials.

Classy Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen will miss the opening six or seven rounds of the season following his second serious knee injury but will be a big bonus when he returns.

In his absence, talented young Wests Tigers pick up Shannon Gallant - who has modelled his game on his idol Bowen - gets an opportunity to play in the No.1 jumper which Ty Williams is also eyeing off.

The Cowboys have the muscle, brains and talent to be the NRL's big movers in 2010.

"Last year was disappointing, winning only two of our last eight games," admitted Henry, not helped by injuries to key players.

"We certainly missed (hooker) Aaron Payne during that period.

"But the team is focused on making the finals this year and we'll need to perform with some consistency in a very competitive competition."

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