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For first time in Benji Marshall’s career, there’s no Tim Sheens polishing Wests Tigers
February 07, 201312:00AM
BENJI Marshall has just spent the afternoon in Ipswich, about an hour west of Brisbane, spreading the rugby league gospel with his fellow NRL All Stars.
As he takes his seat on the team bus for the trip back to the hotel, Marshall is asked about the change of scene.
Not with the All Stars mind you, but at the Wests Tigers, where for the first time in his NRL career he is ploughing through a pre-season without long-time coach and mentor Tim Sheens.
“It’s different,” he said.
"It was actually quite weird at first. This is my 11th season so I was used to Tim the whole time. I have the utmost respect for Tim and all that, but I think it’s been good.
“Something new, something different.”
Marshall is at pains to point out his comments are not designed to belittle his former coach, who remains on the Tigers’ payroll pending a settlement being reached between the parties.
But the fresh voice and fresh ideas of freshly minted coach Mick Potter has had a cathartic effect on the entire club after a season of sharp disappointment.
“Mick is a very honest bloke when it comes to knowing what you can do better,” Marshall said.
"I have really enjoyed it. It has been refreshing. I would never deride Tim in any way.
"But it has been a bit of a change and a freshen-up. I have learned a couple of new things off Mick already.
"He’s a different sort of coach. He is someone who has come in there and really wanted to lay his authority down, get the boys training (hard). For Robbie (Farah) and myself, we have been going on tours for the last five years so we haven’t really had the chance to have a proper pre-season.
"To be honest, we have had a bit of a shock with the training we have been doing.
“We haven’t done that training for a long time.”
The demands of pre-season help explain to an extent why Marshall was so enthusiastic about playing in the All Stars game again. Some have questioned the game’s worth, but Marshall - who will lead the NRL All Stars at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night - is a staunch advocate.
“I got the chance to play with Darren Lockyer (last year) and I never thought I would ever get that chance,” Marshall said.
"To have an opportunity like that for myself is a dream come true. Not only that, the people who question the concept don’t really know what it’s about.
“It’s about community stuff, helping the indigenous communities and raising awareness of the indigenous people. That’s a good enough reason on its own to play.”
After starting last season as premiership favourites, the Tigers are at juicy odds to win the competition in 2013. Surely they can’t endure another year like 2012, which culminated in the club missing the finals and the decision to sack Sheens as head coach. “You know as well as I do it’s just according to the bookies - it means nothing,” Marshall said.
"Us being favourites last year just proves it doesn’t matter what the odds are. It was an up and down year.
"To be honest it just gives you a bit more motivation to want to do better the next year and not have that feeling again.
“We have been training hard. That’s all you can do - train hard and get better.”
Sheens did do a lot of great things at this club and oine of the most important was the way he brought along Benji. After his brilliant, dream start, he suffered year after year of horrible, lengthy injuries that must have crippiling mentally. Tim got him through that and brought him out the other side a more complete player.
However…Benji is capable of playing at another level and IMO Sheens failed to get him there - through no lack of effort, but the fact remains he didnt get him there. I point to the International arena as well as the All stars clashes as examples. Marshall was regularly outplayed by guys like JT and Locky…they were clerly playing at a higher level than him.
I have always believed Benji could be as good as them and I really do have a feeling that this change of management will drive him there. I have always thought Tim stayed too long, but at least Benji gets the chance to have a crack before he is too old. This can only be a good thing for mine. If you read between the lines I believe he is saying as such.
I am not sold on the side for this year as I think we are too light on in the front row but I have a real feeling we will see something special from Marshal this year. With the continued improvement of Farah and Woods and with the hopeful re-emergence of Blair and Rowdy, well you never know…