The Australian Rugby League today is under enormous pressure to finally get tough with the Bulldogs and Kangaroos player Willie Mason.

At Sydney Airport last night, Mason allegedly abused a reporter from radio 2GB (the official rugby league station) while he and other team members were preparing to travel to Brisbane for the Anzac Test on Friday night.

Not only is he accused of embarrassing and belittling reporter Michelle Keighran, he apparently also tried to disrupt other interviews she was conducting with players — having refused to be interviewed himself.

Mason also cast credibility on the Test selection process by loudly proclaiming that he knew “two weeks ago” he would be in the team! That will go down very badly given the chorus of criticism that the team was chosen on the basis of “history” and not “form”.

When it comes to players behaving badly, the last week has been a very unhappy one for rugby league, with the media still highlighting an unsavoury “incident” involving fellow Bulldogs player, Sonny Bill Williams, and “Ironwoman” Candice Falzon.

AFL fans will find this hard to follow, but the National Rugby League has no role in any investigation into Mason’s behaviour. It will be handled by the least credible sporting body in Australia, the Australian Rugby League, over which the NRL has no influence whatsoever.

But even the hopeless ARL will struggle to sweep Mason’s latest antics under the carpet. The NRL, and the game generally, has worked overtime to improve the attitude of players towards women. So, if proven, last night’s incident is a serious setback and unacceptable behaviour by a national player.

And the ARL faces another problem. Apparently Mason’s anger was directed not so much at Michelle Keighran, but 2GB’s match caller, Ray Hadley, who has been scathing of some of Mason’s antics in recent weeks. Hadley has serious clout in rugby league — his Continuous Call show is one of the highest rating programs on radio.

If the allegations are substantiated — and it’s hard to see how they won’t be — then even the ARL is going to have trouble today avoiding dropping Mason from the Kangaroos team. But if nothing is done, then the case for getting rid of the ARL will be even stronger than it already is.

Peter Fray

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