Marshall comfortable in driver’s seat without Brooks
Author - Troy Whittaker
Timestamp - Sun 15 Mar 2020, 10:32 PM
As soon as Luke Brooks injured his calf at training on Saturday, Benji Marshall knew he’d have to guide the Wests Tigers in their round-one clash against the Dragons.
The 35-year-old playmaker used his experience to kick the Tigers to victory, placing perfect grubbers to earn several repeat sets and assist two tries while scoring one himself in the 24-14 triumph at WIN Stadium.
Until the scratching of Brooks, who will miss about a month, Marshall was prepared to play second fiddle on Sunday.
“I really enjoyed the pre-season with Luke because I just let him take control of the team and I could just play off the back of it,” said Marshall, who combined well with Josh Reynolds.
"And I was feeling really good about it. I just knew today that without Luke I sort of had to take control, which I’ve done heaps before and I’m happy to do. I thought I was able to do that today.
“We’d probably lose that [game] in the past, to be fair. I just thought it was a tale of two halves: the first half we didn’t build any pressure and the second half into the wind we were way better and I thought we found the way we wanted to play.”
Marshall said it wasn’t part of the game plan to kick in behind St George Illawarra’s defence but he took advantage of new Dragons No.1 Zac Lomax’s positioning.
“They kept putting Lomax at A defender in the line as a genuine defender, so when their line is rushing up on the outside there’s no one to cover like a typical fullback would,” Marshall said.
“So if you [kick] on tackle four, there’s a fair chance he’s not going to make it there. I kept exploiting it hoping they’d change it and they just kept leaving it the same.”
The 309-game veteran’s boot was laser-like from the tee as well as he nailed three conversions and a penalty despite having not goal-kicked in the Telstra Premiership since 2013.
“My body hasn’t felt good enough to be able to kick for a while, just to do the reps and the practice,” Marshall said.
“It actually takes its toll, believe it or not. So I counted, I’ve got to do about 120 kicks a week to be able to kick. I’m feeling confident, man, I felt pretty good kicking. Windy too today, so it was tough conditions.”
Marshall picked up a hand injury but insisted he would be fine for next week’s clash against Newcastle.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire praised the seemingly ageless Marshall but gave a nod to the team’s young forward pack, with the likes of Alex Twal, Josh Aloiai and Zane Musgrove aiming up.
“If they get a little bit of momentum through the middle, Benji doesn’t have to have that speed like he used to,” Maguire said.
Marshall also paid tribute to the side’s big men, saying: “They lay such a good platform and I thought tonight they just showed how much fight and resilience they have for each other.”
Maguire said there is improvement left in his side’s combinations, as expected at this time of year with plenty of new recruits, but he was impressed with their “fight”.
The premiership-winning mentor applauded the effort of winger David Nofoaluma, who ran for 196 metres and scored two tries.
“If you saw hard how David worked in the pre-season, those sorts of things will come to him,” Maguire said.