Benji Marshall has pledged to fight for his career at another NRL club after the Wests Tigers informed his management they would not have a spot for him in 2021.
It comes as several of the club’s players raised trust and communication issues with coach Michael Maguire during a crisis meeting on Monday, with concerns growing over the coach’s rapport with the playing group.
Marshall’s manager began calling rival NRL clubs on Monday night, offering the five-eighth’s services for next year following a two-hour meeting with Tigers officials during the afternoon.
Marshall confronted Maguire at the club’s Concord headquarters yesterday morning in a 90-minute showdown over his future. The 35-year-old, who wants to play again next season, was disappointed to learn he wasn’t part of the club’s 2021 plans after reading a Herald article on Monday morning.
Maguire had agreed to reconsider, but by the afternoon the club’s position was made clear in a meeting between Marshall’s manager Matt Desira, Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe and head of football Adam Hartigan.
Marshall is scheduled to meet with club powerbrokers on Tuesday to discuss the matter in person. While the Tigers believe Marshall still has plenty to offer, the club’s salary cap predicament has left them with next to no choice but to bring down the curtain on his second coming at the joint venture.
The Tigers have close to $1.6 million tied up in halves Josh Reynolds (off contract at the end of 2021) and Luke Brooks (2023), while they also have Adam Doueihi, Moses Mbye, Billy Walters and young gun Jock Madden, who can all play in the halves, on their books. They have been trying to offload Reynolds for two seasons without success.
The Tigers, who are chasing Josh Addo-Carr and Penrith rookie Charlie Staines, believe Marshall’s $300,000 salary is better spent bolstering their back line or forward pack. The Tigers still have $1m to spend in their salary cap next season with five roster spots to fill.
Marshall’s career is now at a crossroads, with the veteran playmaker intent on continuing beyond his 18th season in the NRL. Manly, Newcastle and Canterbury appear the most logical options.
Marshall may yet have a change of heart once the emotion subsides. He is expected to be given a farewell tour over the final rounds before the last match of the regular season against Parramatta.
Marshall started the year well but was controversially dropped by Maguire after round four despite sitting in second position on the Dally M Medal leaderboard. He returned in round nine but the Tigers have struggled since then.