Benji says only the numbers have changed
Adrian Proszenko | July 19, 2009
BENJI MARSHALL says the number on his back - and the pressure from critics - are the only things that have changed after the shelving of his much-hyped halfback experiment.
Marshall played his first game of the season at pivot in Wests Tigers’ pounding of South Sydney a fortnight ago after coach Tim Sheens aborted his plans, at least temporarily, to turn the Kiwi playmaker into a No.7. But after getting off his sickbed to star in his more customary position, Marshall said he played exactly the same way he had done at halfback.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t think I do anything different to what I normally do,” Marshall said. "It was just a number change. I pretty much played the same role I’ve been playing.
“I had the pressure relieved by not wearing the seven, just wearing the six. It eased a bit of pressure.”
Although Andrew Johns attempted to help him make the shift to halfback, Marshall wasn’t able to emulate the Newcastle great’s consistency. The 24-year-old produced moments of brilliance but there was a huge discrepancy between his best and worst football.
Marshall, who combined well with new halves partner Tim Moltzen against the Rabbitohs, admitted the constant scrutiny of his game didn’t help the transition.
“It’s always been that,” he said. “The thing that surrounds my career, it’s always outside expectations. I’m lucky that I’ve got a good coaching staff behind me and the team’s behind me. I’ll stay on top of it.”
Sheens agreed that Marshall’s game was almost identical regardless of the number on his back and didn’t rule out again handing him the No.7 jersey in the future.
“People that don’t understand football will say he played better at six,” Sheens said. "I’ll let people continue to think that if they want. Pivots are pivots. Sevens play first and second receiver in just about every game, you only need to watch [Darren] Lockyer and [Johnathan] Thurston [in Origin].
“If a change in number on the back keeps people quiet, so be it.”
The Australian mentor said it was his call to switch Marshall back to five-eighth.
“There was pressure on [at halfback] him but he handled that well,” Sheens said. "It was my call, not his. I’ll admit there are some subtle differences - he does get into second receiver more than into first, but not by much.
"His touches were much the same as when he was a starting seven. He’s a pivot. You’ve got to be able to kick, run, pass and do all the things a pivot does.
“The days of the seven being at first receiver and the six being on the long side are long gone. If you don’t understand that you haven’t seen the game develop.”
The Tigers need to defeat North Queensland at Leichhardt Oval today to keep their semi-finals hopes alive. Back-rower Simon Dwyer, 20, will make his debut off the bench after impressive performances in the National Youth Competition.
“He’s a strong kid with a strong running game, he’s the modern-day edge player,” Sheens said. "He’s big and quick and good with his hands, he can offload a ball.
“He’s well over 100 kilograms and has great pace for a big man. He’s a Campbelltown boy, much like Chris Lawrence. I won’t put him in that category yet but I see a huge future.”