Rugby League

Willie Mason has overcome red tape to sign for Catalans Dragons.

Willie Mason makes Super League return with Catalans Dragons

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Former Australia international Willie Mason is back in Super League after joining Catalans Dragons on a 12-month contract.

The French club, who have lost their opening two matches of the season, say they have overcome red-tape difficulties to sign the 35-year-old forward, who made six appearances for Hull KR in 2011 before being released six months into a three-year deal.

Mason was a free agent after being released by Manly Sea Eagles at the end of the 2015 season and had been in discussions with the Dragons since November.

According to the Perpignan club, Mason has now secured a Samoan passport, which takes him off the Catalans' overseas quota through the Kolpak ruling and paved the way for them to complete the deal.

Catalans coach Laurent Frayssinous said: "I have never hidden from the fact that I wanted to strengthen our pack.

"Negotiations with Willie have been long as on one hand, we had to settle his administrative situation and on the other, find a financial agreement.

"We always set a rule to not spend money that we do not have and we had to find a compromise with Willie and his agent.

"Willie is a player who knows the job a prop has to do. He is a physical and aggressive player, both in attack and in defence, and we have spoken a lot about the quality of our group and he is really excited to join the club."

The 6ft 5in, 18st Mason won 24 caps for the Kangaroos and made around 300 NRL appearances, including a Grand Final triumph with Canterbury Bulldogs in 2004 in which he won the Clive Churchill Medal as man of the match.

He also played for Sydney Roosters and North Queensland Cowboys before joining Hull KR six years ago and had an equally brief stint in rugby union with Toulon before returning to the NRL with Newcastle Knights and Manly.

When Mason was released by Hull KR, it was claimed he was unable to obtain a Tongan passport - he played for Tonga in the 2000 World Cup - but, according to the Catalans chief executive Christophe Jouffret, he has Samoan heritage.

The Kolpak ruling gives citizens of countries with European Union association agreements the same right to freedom of work as EU citizens.

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