IT will be the start of a new era at Leichhardt Oval tonight - superstar Benji Marshall wearing something other than the No.6 jumper for the Tigers.
As coach Tim Sheens attempts to kick-start the Tigers’ campaign against the Warriors, Marshall will be shifted to halfback in what could be a long-term move for the perennial crowd favourite.
Marshall was informed this week by Sheens he would be shifting positions, and said he had virtually played as a halfback the past three seasons.
While Tigers fans will wonder how their side copes without Origin hooker Robbie Farah - and how well lightning-quick replacement rake Pat Politoni performs on debut - the real focal point will be Marshall.
“The coach just convinced me finally this week he wanted to change my number, which I wasn’t that happy about at first,” said Marshall, before he flashed a cheeky grin towards Sheens.
“At the end of the day it’s my role in the team, that’s my job, and I’ve pretty much been playing halfback the past three years, so nothing will change,” he said.
After trialling Tim Moltzen, Jacob Miller and Tom Humble in the No.7, Sheens settled on Marshall and new five-eighth Chris Lawrence. Marshall is no stranger to playing halfback, but spent the past few years at five-eighth.
“We wanted Marshall closer to the ball, the No.7 has certainly been a problem for us, and that’s been well documented,” Sheens said.
“Benji plays that role anyway, and whoever plays No.7 with Benji doesn’t see much ball. It’s the same with Johnathan Thurston, (former player) Darren Lockyer, Cooper Cronk where you have a dominant six or seven in the game. Having a running five-eighth in Chris gets him more ball, and you need the best players to touch the ball more often,” he said.
Marshall, who has played with 15 different halves partners since his 2003 debut, said of teaming up with international Lawrence: "I can see him there (at No.6) long-term. He’s one of the best talkers I’ve seen, he loves getting his hands on the ball and one of the greatest runners. He’s a bit like Greg Inglis, he was in the centres where he got limited ball, and being such a great runner of the ball, the more he gets it in his hands the better he’ll be.
“Chris likes organising out wide. He’s mainly a runner of the ball, and although he can pass and kick, it’s my job to organise what happens to the forwards and ruck, Chris stands out wide and when he wants it we swing it to him.”
The Tigers won three on the trot before last weekend’s bye and, said Marshall, needed to work on attack if they wanted to stay in touch with the top eight.
Marshall linked with Shaun Johnson for New Zealand during the Anzac Test, and has plenty of respect for the Warriors No.7.