Tigers veterans Marshall and Farah keen to play on next year
By Adrian Proszenko
June 13, 2019 — 10.00pm
Wests Tigers veterans Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah are keen to extend their playing careers into next season.
The Herald can reveal the superstar duo have informed the Tigers hierarchy of their desire to play on in 2020, which would be their 18th season in the NRL. The pair are already life members after their contributions to date, but both feel they have more to give to the black, white and gold.
Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall are keen to play on in 2020.
Club officials are poised to meet with the pair to discuss the situation as soon as practicable, as any decision will have salary cap ramifications and impact the number of top-30 spots available to coach Michael Maguire for next year.
It was widely thought Marshall and Farah would retire together at the end of the season in what would be a fitting farewell at their spiritual home of Leichhardt Oval against Cronulla in round 25. That fixture is already slated as the last regular-season game in the career of Sharks veteran Paul Gallen. It may not be a swansong in Marshall and Farah’s cases; they made their debuts in 2003 and it’s understood their preference is to also exit the game together.
While they are in the twilight of their careers - Farah will be 36 next year and Marshall 35 - they remain strong contributors to a side still in finals contention at the halfway point of the season. Farah has played in all but one game this year, while Marshall has shown glimpses of his best in his seven appearances.
The pair were among the NRL’s highest-paid stars in their prime, although the club could secure their services for relatively cut-price deals.
The Tigers have signed teenage Broncos hooker Jake Simpkin, considered one of the best young dummy-halves in the country, as Farah’s long-term replacement. However, Simpkin won’t be ready to start next year in first grade and Farah could help mentor his replacement until he is ready to make the step up. Marshall is also viewed as a pseudo-coach while on the field, his experience invaluable to a side that is about to go through a roster revamp.
Maguire will give serious consideration to keeping the pair on the books, although he is mindful of striking the right balance between retaining seasoned stars and introducing new blood. If Maguire opts not to renew their contracts, they will retire rather than look for a contract with a rival club.
Maguire is keen to overhaul his squad, with several big-name players deemed surplus to requirements. Josh Reynolds, Russell Packer, Chris McQueen and Elijah Taylor are among those being shopped to rivals. Former coach Ivan Cleary and football manager Kelly Egan were responsible for bringing them to Concord and soon the latter will make his own departure from the Tigers.
Maguire and Egan’s replacement will be seeking to free up the salary cap space required to reconfigure the squad. In his pre-game press conference, Maguire said he was keeping his players abreast of developments.
“I’m always talking to our players. They are all aware that they can come and have a chat to me about where we’re at,” Maguire said. "We’re all working through things, it’s like any other club, we’re all going through the same thing at some stage.
“We’ll work through it day-by-day and let the players know where we are at. Obviously, people talk about players coming and going but we’ve got a spare spot in our 30. For us, it’s given us the ability to have a little bit of a look around.”
Parramatta prop Tim Mannah is poised to switch to the Tigers, although it remains to be seen whether there will be more comings and goings before the June 30 deadline.