Margie McDonald; The Australian Sports Reporter, Sydney. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/nrl/manlys-squabbles-did-not-diminish-willie-masons-desire-to-join-club/story-fnca0von-1227107679545 THE fireworks within the Manly Sea Eagles this year never deterred Willie Mason from wanting to sign with the club. Boardroom squabbles, Glenn Stewart’s departure, infighting among the players — but still the club made the finals for a tenth year in a row. “They had big dramas last season and they finished equal first,” Mason said yesterday. “That says something right there — so much for a bad year.” Manly will be Mason’s fifth NRL club but the only one he was truly interested in after Newcastle told him he didn’t fit into their 2015 plans following the departure of coach Wayne Bennett. “There were a few clubs but I told my manager if I could get Manly, I’d go there straight away because of the culture at the club — they are always there or thereabouts at the end of the year, no matter what,” he said. “They’ve played in four grand finals in the past few years, won two premierships. “They are a successful and consistent club. They expect to win all the time.” Mason, who turns 35 in April, knows there will be pressure on him. It’s something he relishes, and at 196cm and 118kg and with 24 Tests and 13 Origins to his name, he can produce. “Every team I play for, there’s always a bit of pressure on me. “It’s nothing I’m not used to and I’m looking forward to it,” Mason said. “Choc (Watmough) and Glenn have been central planks of Manly for over 10 years now. The club has always had a good, keen forward pack. They’ve got some good kids coming through and just needed a couple of front-rowers and some older heads. So they got me.” Although he knows little of coach Geoff Toovey, he has a solid friendship with halfback Kieran Foran, has played with Brett Stewart and Jamie Lyon for NSW and Australia and is a former teammate of Tom Symonds at the Sydney Roosters. He’s looking forward to getting to know Daly Cherry-Evans. “(He and Foran) are the best halves in the comp. They are huge for Manly because they play at the highest level,” Mason said of the Kangaroos and Kiwis halves. “I’m pretty good mates with Kieran, and when he and Daly play well, the team plays well. They have guys like (Steve) Matai, Jamie Lyon, Peta Hiku and Snake (Stewart) outside of them. It is a superstar backline. I want to play with my usual passion and pride. That’s the approach I took to Newcastle and that’s what I want to take to Manly.” Knights fans didn’t want Mason to go but understood it wasn’t his choice: “They realise I wanted to stay there.” There is one connection with Newcastle he will not sever — his friendship with former teammate Alex McKinnon, who continues his rehabilitation from a broken neck.