Willie Mason’s back in town…

So Willie Mason is set to sign a two year deal with the Wests Tigers. I’m ok with that.

As I understand it, Gareth Ellis and Keith Galloway are both injured at the moment and the Tigers are lacking a bit of size upfront. Signing a 115 kilogram prop on a reduced short-term salary is probably a good investment for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Mason is 32 now and looking to prove himself for the last time; he’s eager to leave some sort of enduring legacy, aside from making public urination mainstream again (no small feat).

But contracts aside, it is this comment, as reported by Fox Sports, that has worked me up this Tuesday morning. And it’s got nothing to do with whether the guy can play:

“And then you look at Petero (Civoniceva). He’s still going great at almost 36 as well. If I thought I was no good I could just retire and sink into some media work.”

I’m sorry, but when was media work a given? How fucking presumptuous is it to assume that you can just “sink into some media work” after a career blighted by off-field controversy and on-field mediocrity/underachievement?

Tomorrow's Ray Warren and Phil Gould?

Does he know how hard it is for communications and journalism graduates to land a media job these days? A simple glance at seek.com.au reveals just 72 journalism/writing jobs available in the whole of Australia, compared to more than 10,000 advertised accounting positions. A UTS/RMIT media grad has more chance of earning a four-year Tetley’s Super League contract than an on-air reporting gig at Channel Nine.

If Mason wants to get his head on television once his career winds down, he’s going to have to make a few changes. Firstly, he’ll have to differentiate himself from the myriad ex-players currently glutting up both Fox Sports and Channel Nine. Secondly, he’ll have to develop an analytical bone in his body. Thirdly, he’ll have to fix up his attitude problem; I’m not entirely sure a network executive would take on an employee who just wanted an easy paycheck.

So many former players have taken on a media role after their career. Some, like Matthew Johns, Peter Sterling and Phil Gould, have flourished due to an abundance of insight and personality. Others are coasting on their recent heroics and will not last long. Andrew Johns, Brad Fittler and Wendell Sailor fit neatly into this category.

Others, meanwhile, have been somewhat of a revelation. Gorden Tallis, for example, a man whose natural countenance could cause a baby to cry unholy tears, has proven a welcome addition to the Fox Sports commentary team and various talk-show panels. Laurie Daley has effortlessly juggled his media commitments with coaching and stints on the NSW Origin selection panel.

Tallis, engaging in social media.

But these guys – all of them – are natural leaders, at least on the field. Mason, however, is a prat; a washed up nothing-of-a-player with an acute sense of entitlement. It has shown in his off-field misdemeanours and it has shined through again in the featured quote above. I can forgive NRL players for getting drunk and making bad decisions during their careers – and I will continue to raise my glass to the more inventive off-field shenanigans – but I can’t forgive a player who thinks he’s going to slide into a cosy commentating gig just because he’s got a bit of a public profile.

Now if he took a diploma in communication and media at TAFE NSW, I might change my tune. Many league players do the honest thing and take on a trade post-career; many of these guys go on to achieve heights even greater than those they scaled as a footballer.

But I think you need an HSC certificate to undertake that course – and until he convinces me otherwise, I’m not entirely sure Mason knows how to read a fucking autocue.

By Dave Edwards

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