NRL 2020: Pressure mounts on Wests Tigers legend Benji Marshall to make call on his future
He’s as important to the Wests Tigers brand on and off the field as Cameron Smith is to Melbourne. And like the superstar Storm hooker, fans may be seeing the final weeks of Benji Marshall with his long-time club.
Paul Crawley, The Daily Telegraph
August 27, 2020 5:49pm
Benji Marshall can play on next year if he wants at the Wests Tigers. But the big decision for Benji relates to if he plays on, will he run the risk of it ending up a season too long?
One of the great challenges for sporting greats is knowing when to call time. And that is the call the now 35-year-old Tigers legend will have to sit down and discuss with his management next week.
If he does decide to play on there will be a spot at the Tigers on the table, while there has also been interest from England.
The Tigers take on ladder leaders Penrith on Saturday and they have to win to have any chance of Benji getting perhaps one final crack at playing finals footy, however slim those chances seem.
While there has been huge interest surrounding Cameron Smith’s future at the Melbourne Storm — and the push for Smith to make a call so the Storm can plan their future — the Tigers are in a similar predicament.
Despite the massive difference in salaries, Benji is every bit an icon at the Tigers and as important to their brand on and off the field as Smith is to Melbourne.
The Tigers have said that they will allow Benji the time to make his own decision on what he wants to do, but it can’t drag on for too much longer.
There was also some initial interest from Warrington in England when it first emerged that Gareth Widdop wanted to return to the NRL recently.
Steve Price coaches Warrington, and Price was also the coach at St George Illawarra when Benji made the switch to the Dragons in 2014.
There is no doubt Benji’s football would be well suited to the Super League.
But given he has a young family coupled with the current COVID restrictions, now might not be the ideal time to head overseas.
Benji would also attract genuine interest from rival NRL clubs if he wanted to test the market — but the question he would need to answer first is whether he could leave the Tigers again.
Benji’s name will also carry him beyond his playing career, with business opportunities and his future at Fox League all to be considered in the equation.
There is no doubt with the ball in his hands Benji still has a lot to offer and could easily push out another season.
But defensively the Tigers’ system just doesn’t give him the same protection that he certainly would get at one of the top teams.
Regardless, the Tigers have shown they are a better team this year with Benji playing, which is why he has maintained his spot in the side despite some disappointing results.
If Benji was to retire no doubt the Tigers would want to make something special of his final games given he is the joint venture’s greatest.
Although with the current COVID crisis restricting crowd numbers, it’s not like they could open the gates at Leichhardt and make it a free-for-all for his last home game.