Mason to be benched for NRL blockbuster

Star Sydney Roosters recruit Willie Mason will start Friday night's NRL opening round blockbuster against South Sydney from the interchange bench.

Sources from inside the Roosters camp confirmed Mason was set to be held back from the early exchanges with Nate Myles to come into the run-on side at ANZ Stadium.

Mason's removal from the starting line-up could put a lid on some of the predicted early fireworks, but his introduction after the early softening-up period should give the Roosters a vital lift in intensity at the 15-20 minute mark.

Souths skipper Roy Asotasi, a former teammate of Mason's at the Bulldogs, early this week branded the outspoken Test forward a human headline, setting the scene for a fiery showdown in the season-opener.

Meanwhile North Queensland coach Graham Murray is expected to wait until just before kick-off to make a final decision on whether skipper and chief playmaker Johnathan Thurston will play in Friday night's other NRL match against the Gold Coast.

Thurston was expected to miss the opening month of the season after undergoing surgery on both his shoulders in the offseason.

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