Newcastle five-eighth Tyson Gamble has told Willie Mason to stay in his lane after the former Test prop claimed the Knights’ had “the worst spine in the game”.
The outspoken Mason, who played three seasons for Newcastle, said on a podcast last week that opposition sides would not be fearful of the Knights’ key playmaking threats.
Mason highlighted the brilliance of fullback Kalyn Ponga, but said no team would be doing video analysis on a spine containing halfback Jackson Hastings, hooker Phoenix Crossland and Gamble.
The Knights are into week two of the finals after defeating Canberra at the weekend and will head to Auckland to face the Warriors on Saturday in a do-or-die semi-final.
Hastings, Crossland and Gamble all confirmed they had seen the comments, with the latter telling Mason to focus on the issues at Canterbury where he is part of Cameron Ciraldo’s backroom staff.
“Me, Jacko and Phoenix definitely saw it,” Gamble told AAP.
“Everybody’s got an opinion. It’s alright, he should probably worry about his own backyard before he starts worrying about other people.
“He was a middle not a half, so tell him to get f***ed. We’re not a team of superstars, we’ve got Kalyn who is the biggest star in the game.
“We’re a team of blokes who do their job and that’s why we’re in the position we’re in.”
The Knights beat Mason’s Bulldogs 66-0 and 42-6 in their two meetings this season, for an aggregate scoreline of 108-6.
Across the two games against the Dogs, Crossland, Gamble and Hastings scored twice each.
Crossland, in particular, has impressed for the Knights this season.
While traditionally a five-eighth, the Wellington-born 23-year-old has done a commendable job filling in at hooker and is in the frame for a New Zealand call-up.
“I saw what he said and everyone’s entitled to their opinion, I’m not going to sit here and bag Willie,” Crossland said, adding that he respected Mason’s achievements on the field.
“He’s done a lot in the game and he’s entitled to express that opinion.”
Gamble was keen to draw a line under the Jack Wighton biting allegations he made on the field against Canberra when asked about the incident shortly after the game.
“I want to leave that on the field. That’s footy,” he said. “It’s done and dusted, we shook hands and (Wighton) said all the best for the rest of the finals series. We’ll put it to the side and move on.”
Hastings is desperate to play against the Warriors after failing to finish the win over Canberra with an ankle injury.
The Newcastle five-eighth said the plight of Melbourne fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen made him realise how fortunate he is to be contemplating a swift return.
After only a few games back from a fractured kneecap, Papenhuyzen is set to be sidelined for weeks with a broken ankle suffered in Friday’s loss to Brisbane.
“You feel a little bit left out (when you’re injured). But that’s part of footy,” Hastings said. “It could be worse. I feel for Ryan Papenhuyzen and the inspirational story of him coming back.
“It was stressful to watch him go off, it made me feel proud of how tough he was.”