Benji relishing big brother role at Wests Tigers
Author Dan Walsh Timestamp Sat 28 Apr 2018, 06:01 PM
More than a decade since first lighting up the black and gold with flick passes and sidesteps to make a grown man weep, Benji Marshall says he is contributing more than ever to the Wests Tigers cause.
Marshall’s first coming at the Tigers delivered the joint-venture’s only title when he was just 20, with hours of highlights to boot as the most electrifying player of his generation.
He is now 33 and several yards slower across paddock, but miles ahead between the ears. Last year at Brisbane his job was to impart his lessons learned on developing stars Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt.
Now at Concord, Josh Reynolds’ unfortunate run of injuries has given Marshall a regular crack in the halves alongside Luke Brooks.
And he in turn has produced what he dubs a more valuable feather for Ivan Cleary’s cap, the on-field mentoring and game management that has unlocked Brooks’ best and a surprise 6-2 start.
‘‘I played a leadership role at Brisbane last year but I didn’t get to contribute on the field as much as I wanted or thought I could,’’ Marshall said.
''Coming back here I told Ivan that I wanted to contribute on the field. As much as everyone is talking about being a mentor for the young guys, I’d do that for anyone. My priority is playing.
"Coming back here they’ve embraced me to play how I play. Sure, it’s not like it was in '05 or '08. But I feel like I’m contributing more now than I did back then.
‘‘I was doing one-off things back then. In terms of a whole 80-minute game, I feel like I’m contributing more now.’’
Marshall isn’t thinking about 2019 yet or talking to the club about one more year, even if others are.
Likewise the prospect of NRL coaching, even if he waxes lyrical about halves mentoring getting the best out of his own game as well as theirs.
‘‘I learned a lot about game management at the Dragons and I had to preach it at the Broncos to the young guys, doing stuff with our kicking game and showing them kicking plans,’’ he says.
''When you preach it you have to act it. When I came here, it’s the same thing.
"Myself and Brooksy go through what we’re going to do together before the game. When you talk about it, you have to act it out, you can’t just say it and not do it yourself.
‘‘I feel like I contribute more in terms of helping Brooksy relax, building pressure, taking the pressure off. I never used to think about building pressure. I just wanted to score all the time.’’
Sunday’s clash with the Eels is a poignant one for Marshall. Four years ago he returned to rugby league after his ill-fated foray in the 15-man game.
That day reigning wooden spooners Parramatta thumped the Dragons 36-0, Marshall had a shocker and it proved Steve Price’s last outing as the club’s coach.
Rebuilding, redefining his game didn’t happen overnight. It happened over two clubs, from Wollongong to Red Hill, with Marshall watching the never-ending cycle of Tigers dramas from afar.
‘‘I always wanted to come back and help,’’ Marshall says.
''That was one of the points I made to Ivan; that I wanted to get this club back to where it belongs and be back in a positive light. We always had a positive light around this club.
‘‘To see the negativity of the last few years was hard to watch. You can see the players drown in that on the field. It happens at every club when things happen up high they effect things below.’’
Marshall’s story has come full circle, back to Concord once more. And if this is the last chapter, and the on-field contributions do come to an end?
‘‘I’m content coming back and giving it everything I can for this jersey,’’ he says.
"I will let that take care of itself. If I’m playing well enough and my body is feeling great, hopefully [the club] will come to me.
‘‘If it’s not, it’s not. I’ll make sure we go out playing semi-final footy.’’