Willie Mason at centre of NRL probe as Bulldogs issued 'please explain'

The Canterbury Bulldogs great has been working at the club as a pathways coach.

Willie Mason, pictured here working with the Canterbury Bulldogs as a pathways coach.
Willie Mason has been working with the Canterbury Bulldogs as a pathways coach. Image: Twitter/Getty

The Canterbury Bulldogs have been issued a 'please explain' by the NRL over Willie Mason's paid partnership with betting agency TAB. The NRL has been cracking down on links to betting agencies in recent months, with Wests Tigers assistant coach Robbie Farah forced to step away from a role with a bookmaking company.

On Monday it emerged that the NRL Integrity Unit was probing Mason's partnership with TAB due to his role as an assistant coach at the Bulldogs. Mason, who played 148 games for the club, is now working in a pathways role and is often spotted at the NRL squad's training sessions.

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The club great's social media profile says he is a coach and ambassador at the Bulldogs, as well as an ambassador for TAB. The betting agency also sponsors Mason's podcast 'Levels'.

An NRL spokesperson told the Daily Telegraph: “The NRL is aware of the matter and is currently liaising with the Bulldogs.” Bulldogs chief executive Aaron Warburton told the publication: “His role is in pathways but he works with the NRL squad to a lesser extent. We’ve passed his job description on to the NRL as per their request.”

Mason has been working as the Bulldogs' pathways transition coach since last year. The role is aimed at helping young prospects develop into professional footballers and eventually NRL stars.

The 42-year-old posed for a photo alongside fellow club greats Andrew Ryan, Sonny Bill Williams, Willie Tonga and Mark O'Meley during the pre-season. It marked the first time Williams had been back at Belmore since infamously walking out on the club in 2008.

Laurie Daley blocked from applying for Manly role

Laurie Daley also fell foul of the NRL's crackdown on betting links late last year when he was denied the chance to apply for an assistant coaching role at the Manly Sea Eagles. The NRL blocked the former NSW State of Origin coach's application due to his role on Sky Sports Radio's 'Big Sports Breakfast', which is owned by TAB.

Daley said he was 'disappointed' by the ruling from the NRL Integrity Unit but added that he did understand and respect the decision. “I’m not allowed to have association because of the links to TAB,” he said in December. "Obviously I would like to think they would change their mind but I don’t think they will. I would have loved to have been part of it.

“I was informed of the decision by Jason King from the NRL Integrity Unit. We spoke about it and he told me the reasons why. They (NRL) have strict codes when it comes to players, coaches or officials being involved in the game, and being involved with betting agencies.

Laurie Daley, pictured here working as coach of the Indigenous All-Stars team in 2021.
Laurie Daley works as coach of the Indigenous All-Stars team in 2021. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“I accepted (King’s) words - it’s one of those things. I think I would have had a lot to offer. But at the end of the day, the rules are that I can’t do it so I have to play by those rules and accept the decision.

“There was some coaching component to it (the role) but not a lot. It was some mentoring and coaching with the halves. It was working with individuals. But it was all pathways, list management and different aspects of the business.

“You think you’ve got something to offer and you can help some young footy players. It would have been lovely to work with the young Manly halves but, unfortunately, it’s not to be and I have to accept the umpire’s decision and move on. I would love to have got back involved and again get to know what a football club is like, the inner workings of it.”

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