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Willie Mason

Injured Knight Alex McKinnon won't be at Hunter Stadium on Sunday, but the playing squad has ensured he'll at the forefront of their minds with a special tribute.

In the wake of McKinnon's tragic neck injury, prop Willie Mason explains the players will honour Alex by wearing his debut club number and name on their jerseys for the rest of the season, starting on Sunday against Cronulla at Hunter Stadium.

"It will be on our chest, his name and number," Mason said after training on Thursday. 

"That was a senior player and coaching decision, so Club decision."

In a career spanning over a decade, Mason says he has never anything like the serious injury suffered by McKinnon.

It's why he believes the situation is so tough to deal with, even for a veteran in his 15th season in the NRL.

"It’s uncommon for all of us," he says.

"That’s why it is hard to block your emotions and grasp the whole situation.

"Obviously it’s out of the ordinary for me and I think everyone in the NRL these days.

"It’s a shock throughout the whole NRL fraternity and it’s something where there is no manuscript to go with it.

"This is how you deal with it and you’ve got to feel and act.

"So it’s uncommon ground for all of us."

While the situation around McKinnon's injury has been difficult to deal with, Mason says the team is staying strong.

He says coach Wayne Bennett has been a major part of this calmness under adversity. 

"We are a pretty strong group and we have got a pretty good leader there in Wayne Bennett," he says.

"So we are going off him and he is a strong man and a leader of men.

"We’ve got some good leaders of men in our squad that all our young guys look up to as well.

"Wayne has called me personally and I’ve phoned other young kids to see how they are feeling.

"Some young kids have called me.

"We are all grown men, but this is something that hasn’t happened.

"There is no manuscript to say how you’ve got to feel.

"I love Alex like a little brother, so it sucks."

As tough as the past week has been for the entire Newcastle Club though, Mason still has some perspective on life. 

"Me and Danny (Buderus) were saying that the other day that we were lucky to have 15 year careers," he says. 

"This is my 15th year being a pro and you're blessed every time you walk onto that field and every time you train. 

"So it's just really a bad moment for sport in general I think.

"Even talking about it now makes me emotional, so talking about it before the game will be even harder. 

"So I'll just shut my mouth and let them my actions do the work."