Mason allowed to talk with other clubs - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mason allowed to talk with other clubs

By David Beniuk, Liam FitzGibbon and Belinda Tasker 07/11/2007 09:32:23 PM Comments (0)

Controversial Bulldogs forward Willie Mason is set to leave the club after being given permission to negotiate with other NRL and English Super League teams.

In a short statement Bulldogs chairman George Peponis said Mason would be asked to come before the board, where he'd be given the chance to put his case forward regarding possible breaches of club rules.

"The board has resolved to give permission to Willie Mason to formally negotiate with other clubs both in England and the NRL," Peponis said.

"Willie Mason will be asked to come before the board and he will be given the chance to put his case forward (regarding) the breaking of any club rules.

"That opportunity will be afforded to Willie Mason when he returns from Melbourne (expected to be Friday).

"The club will not comment further until Willie Mason has had reasonable opportunity to address the board."

Mason's effective release comes after an ongoing feud with Bulldogs chief executive Malcolm Noad over an alleged series of missed engagements by the player - for which the club was considering fines - and his desire to pursue boxing as a sideline to his league career.

It is believed the Bulldogs have not released Mason because they would have to pay out the final two years of his $450,000 annual contract.

On a day of drama at the Canterbury Leagues Club, 12 Dogs players arrived dressed in club apparel and entered through a side door around 20 minutes after the scheduled starting time of the board meeting.

The group included captain Andrew Ryan, superstar Sonny Bill Williams and goalkicking ace Hazem El Masri.

It is believed they met separately to discuss the Mason saga and Ryan, hooker Corey Hughes and fullback Luke Patten spoke at the board meeting and gave the board the players' backing for whatever decision they came to.

Lock forward Reni Maitua, when asked why the players had turned up, told the Nine Network: "We're just here to support our teammate, that's it".

Mason's manager Greg Keenan said: "Willie is very appreciative of the support shown by his teammates in showing up."

Keenan also said "in line with the consent granted by the club" negotiations had already commenced with several NRL and overseas clubs to sign Mason.

The Sydney Roosters, Cronulla, North Queensland and English Super League club Hull have already expressed interest in signing Mason, although the NRL's salary cap could be the most influential player in the damaging ball runner's immediate future.

Mason has indicated he would be keen on a move to the Roosters, although the chance to play under national coach Ricky Stuart at the Sharks may also entice him.

Several clubs contacted after Bulldogs' announcement expressed an interest in chasing Mason's signature.

Cronulla chief executive Tony Zappia said the club was "very interested" in signing Mason but would need to wait on the outcome of the potential sale of Ben Ross to free up space under the salary cap.

Zappia said the prop, believed to be on a contract worth around $400,000 a year, had been approached by Hull.

"We're very interested in Willie and we will be making an offer providing it meets the salary cap requirements," Zappia said.

"We've just got to see if we can put a reasonable offer to him.

"We're waiting on a couple of outcomes ... we'll know more in the next 48 hours.

"(Ross) has had an approach from Hull ... if that opportunity arises for Ben then that (Mason's signing) opportunity opens for us."

But the Sharks' hopes received a blow late on Wednesday night when Hull played down signing Ross and revealed coach Peter Sharp was in Australia negotiating for Mason.

"I am not sure we would be interested in Ben Ross," Hull spokesman Richard Tingle said.

"We as a club are very ambitious ... Willie Mason would be a wonderful acquisition if we could get him."

North Queensland boss Peter Parr said the Cowboys "might consider" making an approach to Mason and a decision could be made as early as Thursday.

It is understood St George Illawarra may also be interested in Mason if they can offload injury-prone halfback Mathew Head.

Dragons chief executive Peter Doust declined to comment when contacted.

Wests Tigers, Brisbane and Gold Coast were among the clubs who confirmed they would not make a play for Mason.

Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan could not be contacted.

Mason played 148 games for the Bulldogs following his debut in 2000.

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