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Big Willie to slip back in ?
The presence of giant forward Willie Mason on the flight to Auckland has added a wild card to a Bulldogs-Warriors NRL clash which both sides must win to keep their slim finals hopes alive.
The Bulldogs deny the 195cm forward, who hasn't played since he broke a bone in his foot on a Kangaroos tour last year, could take the field at Ericsson Stadium.
The club says sending Mason to New Zealand is just to get him back in the team groove.
"Willie will be on the trip but there's no plans for him to play," a Bulldogs spokesman told the League Correspondent.
"He's probably a little underdone, he hasn't done anything for six months."
The club says utility player Reni Matua, who's had an ankle injury, is a better chance than Mason of playing after he also rejoined the team a month earlier than expected.
"There's a possibility he could play but they have to see how he is each day," the spokesman said.
Warriors coach Tony Kemp is attempting to ignore the Bulldogs' mind games.
"It's 13 jerseys this week and that's the mental approach that we have to take to the game," Kemp said.
" Steve Folkes probably thinks this is a must-win game and we need to show some desperation."
Both teams fell down last week - the Bulldogs losing 33-6 to the Storm and Warriors 24-16 to the Cowboys - putting their finals hopes in jeopardy after strong wins the week before.
The Bulldogs are 11th on the ladder with 17 points and the Warriors one spot below them with 16, four points outside the top eight with eight rounds to go after this weekend.
Kemp thinks 28 points is needed by the end of the regular season to make the finals, a tall order for both clubs.
"Mathematically, we can still well and truly make this finals series," he said.
Winger Todd Byrne returns to the Warriors' lineup after recovering from a neck injury, replacing Manu Vatuvei, out with a sternum injury.
Byrne, the Warriors' top try-scorer this season, said even though the reigning premiers had a long injury list they would be formidable opponents.
"We're going to have to come up with our own little plan to derail them," he said.
He said watching the team's loss to the Cowboys had been "frustrating and disappointing" after they knocked off competition leader Brisbane in the previous week.
"We've beaten the top side twice so we know can compete with the best sides. On our day we can beat anyone," he said.