TOUGH Keith Mason has admitted his relief at escaping a suspension and immediately set his sights on erasing one of the bitterest memories of his playing career.
The 27-year-old prop will today lead Huddersfield Giants from the front in the fourth round of the Carnegie Challenge Cup at Harlequins (3.00).
His place in the side had been in jeopardy when he was ordered to appear in front of Rugby League disciplinary chiefs on Tuesday charged with striking during last Friday’s 22-8 Super League triumph at Wigan.
Although he was found guilty and fined £300, he was cleared to play and is now desperate to inspire the Giants to victory and make sure there’s no repeat of his 2006 Challenge Cup heartache.
“One of the lowest points in my career definitely came in 2006 when I was forced to miss the Challenge Cup final with the Giants because of a hamstring injury,” said Mason, who did win the competition with St Helens two years earlier.
“It’s something that still hurts when I think about it, particularly as the injury was a freakish thing that happened in training. There’s no doubt it’s made me all the more determined to do what I can to get Huddersfield back to a final and play this time.
“That’s the only way to get 2006 really out of my system.
“Because of that, I would have been gutted to have picked up a ban this week and missed the Cup game, especially as I wasn’t the only player involved in that incident at Wigan.
“Fortunately, that’s the way the disciplinary panel saw it too, and I thought (assistant coach) Paul Anderson did a great job defending me.
“So now I’ve got the chance to do what I can to help us beat Quins and get us into the next round and keep the Cup final dream alive.
“We might have beaten them easy up here the other week, but they’re far tougher at home and I know that me and the rest of the forwards have a big role to play to get us through.
“If we stick to the game plan we’ll be okay.”