17 hours ago
Injuries to key Kangaroos following the game against the Tomahawks have caused a stir back in Australia.
The injuries to the Bulldogs two leading forwards have caused an outcry in Belmore with club chief executive Malcolm Noad preparing a compensation claim as Mason and O'Meley will be sidelined for a total of 24 weeks.
The pair sustained injuries in Wednesday's clash with the USA Tomahawks - the last match of the Kangaroos tour.
Mason was told he would be sidelined for four months after sustaining ligament damage in his toe during Australia's match against the USA on Wednesday.
Mason will undergo an MRI scan in New York today before returning to Australia for surgery.
O'Meley will be out for up to eight weeks after rupturing a knee ligament in the same match.
Bennett was aware of the controversy brewing at home over whether Australia should have played the exhibition game and risked injuring players who had escaped the Tri-Nations series relatively unscathed.
An unhappy Mason arrived at a team function in New York on crutches and his foot in a cast.
He spent most of the night on a couch while his Kangaroo teammates socialised with invited dignitaries and guests.
Mason would not comment on his injury which he received in the 64th minute of the game while scoring the try to put Australia ahead for the first time in the game.
"Nah mate, I'm not saying anything about it," he said, clearly disgruntled at the press attention.
But Bennett did speak and claimed any criticism of the match should be ignored.
"We have a great ability at home to always find fault and slowly give praise. It seems like nothing has changed," he said.
"We are footballers, footballers play football.
"That's the risk you take. What happened last night just happened."
But Noad said he would be putting forward a proposal at next week's chief executives conference for clubs to receive compensation for having rep players unavailable at club level and also to cover injuries.
Representative players are insured by the game's governing body but that, say the Bulldogs, does not get the player back on the field.
The Bulldogs are concerned they pay bonuses to rep players, increased contracts for rep players yet the players plays less due to rep football.
"We will be discussing some form of compensation for rep players, possibly a salary cap compensation for teams supplying rep players," Noad said.
"It is more than timely for us to discuss this now given what has happened.
"We give players to rep football and the players want to play rep football.
"But the more rep players you have, the more you are disadvantaged.
"The high profile players are unavailable."
However NRL chief executive David Gallop dismissed talk of compensation.
"It is unfortunate about the two players and the game's insurance covers the player's salaries while they are out injured," Gallop said.
"Compensation is not feasible but if the injuries are long-term, there is provision for salary cap relief.
"Clubs should want their players in rep football. This isn't an issue unique to rugby league and is difficult to find the perfect answer."
Bennett reminded critics his Brisbane Broncos had contributed heavily to the Australian team and suffered injuries in the process, such as Darren Lockyer's rib injuries during the Anzac Day Test. Bennett said Mason would probably miss the first one or two games of the 2005 season as well as pre-season training.
"I don't think that will disappoint him too much," he said.
The Broncos coach also dismissed suggestions the Astroturf surface in Philadelphia contributed to Mason's injuries, as well as a slight knee strain to O'Meley.
Skipper Lockyer backed Bennett.
"The surface had nothing to do with the injuries," Lockyer said. "Mark was just caught in a tackle."
Mason was looked after yesterday by New York foot surgeon Gary Sherman who is a fishing buddy of Australian Consul-General Ken Allen, the host of the function.