I personally think Benji was hands-down the most exciting NRL player in his generation and should be recognised in some way but not sure immortal is the best fit…
Michael, Tiger and Benji: The case to make Marshall an Immortal
Cameron Smith will set records that may never be broken; Benji Marshall captured the imagination of an entire sport in ways that can never be matched.
In a week in which Smith is rightly feted for breaking a barrier that seemed insurmountable only a decade ago, it would be easy to overlook Marshall’s 300th.
In a warped way it would be somewhat fitting as Marshall’s impact should not be measured purely by numbers.
Like Michael Jordan did for basketball and Tiger Woods for golf, Benji gave rugby league a street cred it had never possessed.
At a time when Australia and New Zealand were being more heavily influenced by American culture than ever before, Benji made kids want to play rugby league.
Mind-boggling sidesteps. Audacious flick passes like no-look dishes seen each week in the NBA. Goose steps that made each opposition defender look like, well, a goose.
Benji made the game cool in ways no one else had.
For all of his savant-like rugby league intuition – in fact, maybe because of it – few kids grow up wanting to emulate Cameron Smith; for a decade every kid who picked up a Steeden wanted to “be like Benji”.
If Smith has been described as “The Accountant” for the clinical way in which a mild-mannered bloke from Logan without an imposing physique has dissected the game like no one before him, Benji has been the A-list movie star; the ultimate combination of style and substance.
Players such as Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kodi Nikorima have represented their nation in the sport having been inspired not by Benji’s accomplishments but the way in which he did it, proving to Kiwi kids that there was an option other than being an All Black.
Perhaps no player in the game’s history has been plastered over the walls of more young fans who support other teams and to this day the mere mention of his name moves the media needle like no one else.
The online explosion has meant that every click can be monitored and no one player has generated more digital impressions in the past 20 years than Benji.
And like so many of the greats – Michael, Tiger, Serena and Pele et al – it has to be Benji; Marshall just doesn’t have the same cut-through.
There was the adversity of seven shoulder injuries in the space of three years that at age 22 had people questioning his future in the game.
For a time in the wake of the Wests Tigers’ 2005 grand final triumph it seemed like every time Benji attempted a tackle his shoulder would collapse, giving those who sneered at his freewheeling ways ammunition to question whether he was tough enough to play the game in the first place.
He had made just 56 NRL appearances when his shoulder gave way for the seventh time in May 2007 but he has rebuilt his body and remodeled his game to become just the 36th player to reach 300 when the Tigers take on Parramatta on Sunday.
And if you need numbers to be convinced of his place in the game consider that in his first nine seasons at the Wests Tigers the team had a winning percentage of 50% or better with Benji in the team every year bar one.
He becomes just the fourth Kiwi to play 300 NRL games and has represented his country on 28 occasions.
Between 2009 and 2011 he was named RLIF Five-Eighth Of The Year (2009, 2011), Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year (2010) and awarded the Golden Boot (2010) as the best player on the planet.
His career is one of the universe’s true rarities, a brilliantly shining star that never loses its lustre.
At the height of his powers he trod the line between confidence and arrogance with typical dexterity, only on the rare occasion putting a foot into touch.
He has matured into one of the statesmen of the game and made the transition from revered sporting god to a man with a common touch.
His willingness to go out of his way for young fans should never be taken for granted despite its regularity and he has a way of sprinkling magic dust on all who he meets.
Upon his arrival at the Broncos prior to the 2017 season he not only introduced himself to all the assembled journalists but also those behind the cameras.
It was a simple act that took no more than 30 seconds but left a lasting impression on those he met that day.
To be considered an Immortal you should transcend the game in ways that cannot simply be defined by statistics and record books.
By that measure Benji Marshall might just be the most deserving player of all.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.
The switching codes doesn’t worry but the longevity of dominance (or lack of it) precludes him from being an immortal IMO.
Close to the best player in the game between 2009 to 2011 but beforehand his brilliance was sporadic and subsequently he has not been in the top 5 5/8ths in the game.
If we won in 2010 or 2011, when we should have, the answer may be different.
Will still have close to the best highlights reel of all time.
Love Benji, but you blokes are delusional if you think he is anywhere close to an immortal.
300 games, nice…but half of them rocks.
Barely made the semi finals half of his career.
True, but it doing so he has inspired a lot of kids
Inspiring kids is great, but that is not the criteria to be an immortal.
Joey Johns lifted a team to the finals
on his back for years. Cam Smith, who I detest, has barely ever played a bad game and led the way in literally 100s of victories.
Benji has had about 50 great games, 100 decent ones and the rest have been forgettable. His teams have barely ever even made the finals.
I would rather my son watched him than Cam Smith, but that is not the criteria to be an immortal.
I love Benji. That’s a great article that highlights the man behind the figures which us admirable. Benji in his prime did things that John’s, Lockyer, Smith, Thurston or Cronk couldn’t dream of doing. But the fact for this discussion is that Benji at his lowest point couldn’t do the simple things that a half like Jeff Robson could, like finding touch off a penalty, throwing a cut out pass or putting the ball into touch on the fifth.