COME home Benji.
That’s the call from Wests Tigers Auckland Nines captain Chris Lawrence, who has encouraged off-contract St George-Illawarra five-eighth Benji Marshall to finish his career in the black, white and gold.
Believing Marshall would prove an invaluable asset and mentor for young Tigers halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks, Lawrence said a homecoming for the former Kiwi international would also provide the farewell he failed to receive as a result of his shock 2013 exit to rugby union.
“I’d love Benji to comeback,’’ Lawrence told The Sunday Telegraph.
“He’s a good mate of mine and I played a number of years with Benji. We definitely had a bit of success playing together and I loved playing every minute with him.
“I’d love to see him back at the Tigers.
“We’ve got a lot of young halves and fullbacks so if he did come back, where he would fit in, in terms of our structure I don’t know, but if he wants to come and the club wants him to come, I’d definitely welcome him with open arms.’’
The future of Marshall, 30, at the Dragons is yet to be determined with the club advising the 2005 premiership winner that any offer is unlikely to arrive before the end of March.
Saints are also expected to join a string of rival clubs who are set to make a play for off-contract South Sydney half Luke Keary and Melbourne Storm star Cooper Cronk.
As a result of his departure to the Super 15 Auckland Blues, Marshall failed to receive the fitting send-off he would’ve liked, from the club he made his debut with in 2003.
From a marketing and PR point-of-view, the return of Marshall would also provide the Tigers with undeniable intrigue and publicity.
Lawrence said Marshall’s ability to assist the development of 21-year-old Tigers pairing, Moses and Brooks, was worth serious consideration for the club.
“He’s come through and done what they’re going through as a young player and had to go through the ups and downs, so there wouldn’t be anyone better with the experience or a better mentor for those young guys,’’ Lawrence said.
“If that opportunity arose and he did come back, geez I’d love to see that.
“I think both parties agree that it probably wasn’t the best way it ended, but that’s footy these days and if he got the opportunity to finish off on a better note for the tigers so be it.
“With footy you don’t make your decisions based on those types of things, for him it would be how football-wise he wants to finish his career. ‘’
Lawrence is also in the process of sorting out his own future at the Tigers.
Conceding that his days in the centre position were over as he planned to spend 2016 in the backrow, the former Test player admitted leaving the Tigers would prove the toughest decision of his career.
“It would be a massive call (to leave),’’ Lawrence said.
“I’ve spent my entire career here and I got an opportunity as a young fella and came through the junior system, so as a one club player it would be a massive call to leave.
“That will be something for my manager to sit down with the club and have a chat about and for me, its about starting the year strong and trying to get the team right off on the right note.’’
I think hes burnt his bridges here meself