Whether you think he’s cool or a tool, you can’t ignore NRL superstar and class clown Willie Mason.
You left the Bulldogs in a blaze of headlines after 10 seasons for the Roosters. Does that make 2008 the most important year in your footy career?
Yeah, I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself now. Particularly after the circumstances I left the Bulldogs in, which weren’t the prettiest. Some of the fans weren’t happy. But you can’t please everyone. If you try to do that you’d lead a very ordinary life, just kissing everyone’s arse. Both parties came to an agreement where I was no longer happy there and just wanted a break. They understood that. I wasn’t getting along with certain people in club management and it just happened really quick in the end. The media blew it up.
Making any big predictions for the Roosters this year?
We can definitely finish top four. I had a look at our squad and I know it’s one of the best in the NRL. A lot of ex-Bulldogs, a lot of guys who had a good year last year and a lot of young guys – it’s a good mix. I reckon something special is going to happen this year.
How are you going with Freddy Fittler as coach?
Freddy’s been unbelievable. I played with him and against him. Blokes like him and Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer, it’s like they’re already coaching the team when they’re playing. He knows players, he knows personalities and he doesn’t rule everyone with the same yardstick. You’re not going to treat me the same as you treat Craig Fitzgibbon. Or treat Fitzgibbon the same as Anthony Minichiello. He understands that. He’s a bit of a weirdo but I love him.
You’ve got a bit of ink these days. Tell us about your tatts.
They just mark certain little chapters in my life. One I’ve got on the forearm is for when my dad passed away. Then I’ve got my Bulldogs premiership tatt. And I’ve got one in Japanese that means, "Family strength," because I’m pretty close to my family. I’ve got another one on my arm that reads, "Only God can judge me," because I suppose I have that attitude sometimes where you think everybody is against you. I don’t regret any of them. They’re about how I was feeling at the time. My girlfriend doesn't like them, but it’s not her skin.
Do you ever wear your 2004 premiership ring?
You wear those things for a week. If it was America, those NFL and NBA players, they wear their rings everywhere. But in the Aussie culture with sport, you get knocked down pretty quick. If I saw a guy out wearing his premiership ring I’d have a crack at him and say, "What the f–k are you wearing that for?"
At 196cm, do you need to go to Ron Bennett’s for Big Men when you shop?
Nah. I’m not quadruple XL or anything. I think TV always makes me look bigger than I am. It adds 10kg. A lot of people come up and say, "You’re not that big."
Are there pictures of your worst fashion mistakes?
I think my missus has got a few. She thinks she’s had a big say in my style over the years. I think it’s a load of shit. I’ve got photos of me wearing bad shoes – white shoes with shit stuff. It would have been the late-’90s, early-2000s. I don’t think anyone had any idea how to dress then.
You’re a human headline. Do you enjoy all the attention?
It affects other people more than it affects me. The stupid-minded people out there who believe half of it are just idiots. I don’t give a shit what people write. Most of it’s just to sell papers and most of it is a load of shit. Most of them are not massive stories but the way the media put it out there, it’s like I’ve killed someone or something. It’s just rugby league. I can only control what I can. Rugby league; I can control that. I can control my life. But I can’t control the media. If you have that attitude where you’re going to try to fight it, you’re not going to win because they’re too powerful. You just roll with it.
To read the full interview, buy the March '08 edition. On sale now at newsagents.
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