Willie Mason last night rejected speculation he wanted out of the Roosters and revealed he had been personally assured by chairman Nick Politis that the club wanted to retain him.
Mason, who will play for Newtown on the Central Coast on Saturday after being dumped from the Roosters NRL side along with fellow representative forward Nate Myles for breaching the club's alcohol policy, said he was unhappy with the penalty but had learnt his lesson.
Despite being under contract until the end of next season, Mason has been linked to a move overseas as his manager, Greg Keenan, is in Europe talking to clubs in rugby union and Super League on behalf of clients.
But the Test star insisted he was committed to the club and said he could look to re-sign when his contract expired.
"I'm very happy at the club," Mason told Channel Nine. "I have got two years here, and if I feel good after the contract and feel like I can compete in Australia at the top level, I want to re-sign with the Roosters."
Asked about reports the Roosters would be happy to grant him a release if he found a deal elsewhere, Mason said: "Nick Politis rang me straight away and laughed it off and said he is never going to get rid of me."
While unhappy not to be in the side named yesterday to play Parramatta at the SFS on Friday night, Mason accepted that Roosters coach Brad Fittler wanted to make a stand after a disappointing start to the season.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that a member of the Roosters coaching staff had detected alcohol on Mason's breath at training on Monday but he insisted he had not been drinking heavily the day before - although, under the club's alcohol policy, players are only allowed to drink the day after a game.
"He has made a very strong statement to the rest of the team: don't have a beer the day before training," Mason said. "Four or five beers on a Sunday in my own house is obviously the wrong thing to do now. If I do it again I'm an idiot."
With Mason and Myles demoted, Fittler welcomed back rookie hooker Jake Friend from a two-week ban imposed by the NRL after he was caught drink-driving. Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Shane Shackleton get their chance to start while Friend, Martin Kennedy and Sisa Waqa were added to a five-man bench for the clash with the Eels, who have back-rower Weller Hauraki returning from suspension. The Roosters have also signed winger Smith Samau from the Gold Coast Titans for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile, Bulldogs officials insist that the decision to drop Ben Barba and Lee Te Maari from the team to play Cronulla on Sunday had nothing to do with their altercation in the car park of a western Sydney pub last weekend.
Centre Jamaal Idris, the other player involved, retains his place in the starting line-up, while Michael Hodgson, Yileen Gordon and Matt Utai are the new faces in an 18-man squad.
The Bulldogs are still considering what action, if any, to take against Barba, Te Maari and Idris - although it is expected that the trio will be fined.
Barba and Idris were yesterday dumped from a scheduled promotion at an Arrive Alive secondary schools gala day and replaced by captain Andrew Ryan and veteran fullback Luke Patten.
The Bulldogs will today lodge their appeal against the NRL's decision to dock them two points from their round-two defeat of Penrith for having 14 players on the field when Ben Roberts scored the match-winning try.
In other team news, Canberra fullback David Milne and winger Brett Kelly were dropped from the team that lost to Parramatta last Saturday night and replaced by boom 18-year-old Josh Dugan and Adrian Purtell. Captain Alan Tongue also returns from a shoulder injury.
Warriors coach Ivan Cleary has promoted halfback Stacey Jones to the starting side for the first time since the veteran came out of retirement this season, with World Cup hero Nathan Fien moving to the interchange bench.
- Sydney Morning Herald
Who was the best player in the NRL this year?Related story: (See story)