Outspoken former Newcastle Knights veteran Willie Mason has slammed the Warriors for their handling of Russell Packer during his time at the club and says they are partly to blame for his life spiraling out of control.
Packer is nearing the end of a jail term after he pleaded guilty to assault in January. He was successful in his April appeal to have his no-parole term overturned and is eligible for release on January 5 after which he is hopeful of resurrecting his NRL career.
Mason believes the Warriors should have done more to help Packer and was critical of their decision to pass a damning character reference on to the NRL's integrity unit, which was reportedly influential in the NRL's decision to not register Packer's four-year playing contract with the Knights.
"I don't think the Warriors helped him much by sending his file over. They shouldn't [have]. If anything they should have helped him," Mason said.
Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah says the club was obligated to submit the file to the NRL and stressed Packer was never involved in any serious incidents that might have warranted the club's intervention.
"Because of the incident Russell had while he was a Newcastle Knights player we were required by the NRL integrity unit to provide his history at the club and we did exactly what was requested of us," Scurrah said. "There were no off-field incidents involving police charges while Russell was a player at our club."
Packer arrived at the Warriors as a 17-year-old with a history of alcohol abuse after a difficult upbringing and dysfunctional childhood.
Mason says the Warriors let Packer down by not addressing his issues sooner and they had years to transform his character before submitting their damaging file to the NRL.
"If anything it's the Warriors' fault by hiding all this stuff and just worrying about Russell Packer the footballer instead of Russell Packer the human being who needs help. They didn't give a shit about him being a human being. They just wanted him every game on the field because they swept things under the carpet. And then when he was in the shit they hand it over to try and get him in more trouble.
"He's obviously filthy at that and I couldn't believe that they did that as well. They should have been helping him from when he came to the Warriors as a 17-year-old because he's from the country and was a bit of a wild kid but he should have been polished and a proper human by the time he was 24 and got to us [at the Knights].
"The Knights didn't know he had any problems whether it be alcohol, or anything like that but the Warriors sure knew about it so they need to take a lot of responsibility because he should have been helped a long time ago so that's what I was a bit angry about."
Mason got along well with Packer during his brief time with the Knights at the end of the 2013 season and was adamant the prop should be allowed to resume his professional league career once he is released from jail.
"Me and Rusty were getting on pretty good at the Knights and he was a pretty important buy for us and we needed that extra prop. One hundred per cent, Russell should be let back in. I think he's paid his debt to society and should be let straight back in to an NRL side. It would be unfair if he wasn't."
Mason believes a climate of public outrage over drunken assaults contributed to Packer's fate but said he was shocked when he learned he would do jail time.
"It was obviously what he did, but the timing of it in Sydney, it was red hot. There were a lot of bikie things, a kid got killed in the Cross with a king hit, so there was a lot of public noise about 'can you do something about it'. As soon as a high profile player came along, Rusty, bang. We never thought he'd get a year in jail."