Former Australian Test star Willie Mason has lifted the lid on the moment he was the victim of an intense Kiwi backlash after mouthing “f*** off” during the haka.
Mason, who played 24 times for the Kangaroos, was captured by TV cameras giving Kiwis fullback Brent Webb a tirade of abuse during a pre-game haka in 2006.
Now 40, Mason, who was born in Auckland, went on to play over 300 first-grade games across the NRL and Super League.
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Mason was accused of disrespecting his nation of birth, but as he told Fox League’s Andrew Voss on The Fan that wasn’t the case.
“I was born in New Zealand [and] the whole ‘disrespecting the haka’, it’s pretty hard to do,” said Mason, who also played for Tonga.
“There’s nothing but respect to the haka.
“It was Brent Webb, who at that time, he was a cheeky little dude.
“He was hammering me and I’m like: ‘You can’t make the Australian side. You’re Aboriginal and you can’t make the Aussie side. You’re playing for New Zealand’. And a few expletives in there [too].
“And he’s like: ‘This, this’ and I’m like: ‘Oh yeah, eff you’. And then the camera zoomed in when I’m telling him to: ‘Go and get [effed]’. Then the whole nation turns on me, saying I’m disrespecting the haka, telling the haka to get effed.
“I said: ‘I don’t think that’s possible’. But they ran with it and the whole of New Zealand wanted to kill me.”
The Kiwi players clearly took offence to Mason’s actions. David Kidwell made it his focus to exact revenge, and that certainly did.
The forward battered Mason with a shoulder charge.
After laying the Australian prop flat out, Kidwell stood over Mason and screamed in his face. The crowd went berserk, and Mason was taken aback by the reaction.
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“To Kiddy, I reckon it just probably made his whole career,” Mason added.
“It’s just like it couldn’t have happened any better for him.
“I was like, ‘How could I disrespect the haka?’ I’ve got nothing but love for New Zealand and nothing but love for the haka and respect.
“It was just taken out of context. I didn’t understand why and how you could disrespect the haka by just telling another bloke to get effed.”