Ayshford slams Benji’s critics
By Darren Walton
Sat 20th July, 12:18pm
Departing Wests Tigers star Blake Ayshford has slammed Benji Marshall’s critics and shed a tear of his own about leaving Leichhardt.
All the attention leading up to the Tigers’ 24-14 loss to the Warriors on Friday night was on Marshall after the superstar playmaker was granted permission to leave the NRL club at season’s end.
But Ayshford too is on the move and the Cronulla-bound centre admits he was overcome with emotion after bidding farewell to the Tigers’ spiritual home.
“It didn’t really hit me that it was my last game (at Leichhardt) until I was walking around the field with my little baby boy and a couple of tears rolled down my face,” Ayshford told AAP.
"It was pretty emotional. I didn’t think it would hit me like that, but I’ve been playing here since I was 17.
"I’ve played Jersey Flegg, under-20s and Premier League out on that field in front of 300 and I’ve had some big games in front of 20,000.
“So it hit me pretty hard.”
While Marshall has been at odds with the Tigers for months, Ayshford said he was leaving the club on good terms.
“They granted me the release. It’s been a mutual thing - there’s been no arguing,” the 25-year-old said.
“I just think I’ve been playing some bad football the past two years and I just thought the change of scenery might help my football.”
Ayshford admitted after the highs of making the grand final qualifier in 2010 and qualifying final in 2011, the lows of the past two seasons had been despairing.
“We need to win every game to make the eight or be a chance of making the eight, so it’s been a real disappointing year, especially with the talent we’ve got here,” he said.
“We know we can deliver a lot better.”
He said the flak flying Marshall’s way had also hurt the Tigers.
“A lot of us have been frustrated this week about how a lot of people have treated him,” Ayshford said.
"Saying he’s money hungry and all that, that’s not the truth. All the boys in here know the truth and what he’s done for this club over the last five or six years.
"I wish I could go on all those talk shows and express how much he’s done for me and my football career and how much he’s done for the fans and this club.
“You know, it hurts seeing that and we’ve stuck tight through that and we’re going to stick tight through the next six weeks to make the semis.”
In a sign of the fight left in the Tigers, who are still to face top-four sides South Sydney, the Sydney Roosters and Manly, Ayshford said he hoped to have a big decision to make during the finals series.
“We’re expecting a baby girl in grand final week,” he said.
“So it’s going to be a tough decision on whether I play the grand final or go to the birth.”