Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett has tipped renaissance man Willie Mason to have a big year for the Knights after another impressive trial performance.

Bennett threw the former NSW and Australia prop a lifeline last year, signing him after he'd been snubbed by a number of clubs following his return to Australia from French rugby.

The controversial front-rower's move to Wests Tigers collapsed after the joint-venture got cold feet about signing the ex-Sydney Roosters and Canterbury enforcer.

Bennett stepped in and offered him a deal until the end of last season and then had no hesitation in offering him a two-year extension which he signed in November.

The seven-time premiership-winning coach also made Mason one of his two selections for the NRL All Stars team and believes the 32-year-old is close to career-best form following Saturday's trial against Cronulla in Tamworth.

"He was outstanding out there, he's the right playing weight and is full of energy and enthusiasm," Bennett said.

"His running game was outstanding. I am not sure how many metres he made but they would be up there."

Mason will go into the Knights' season-opener against Wests Tigers with three pre-season games under his belt and Bennett said it's been a huge benefit to him.

"It's three games into the season for him and hopefully he'll get better from there," he said.

"But at the same time, if he keeps producing like he has every week, we'll be very happy with him."

The Knights led 16-4 against the Sharks with seven minutes remaining only to lose the game 22-16 after Bennett made a host of changes.

The 63-year-old admitted he was disappointed by the capitulation, but quietly confident his side will enjoy a much-improved season after missing the finals in his first year at the club.

"I made the choice to take all the top players off, but I got what I wanted out of the trial," he said.

"I am really confident about our defence, it's been really good and the attitude has been spot on.

"It's the silly things we still need to cut out, giving away penalties for not playing the ball with your foot is as silly as it gets.

"But if we do all that, we should have a good year."

 

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