Tigers to sacrifice $100,000 to give Benji Marshall a Leichhardt farewell
By Michael Chammas
September 3, 2020 — 12.01am
Wests Tigers are willing to sacrifice close to $100,000 to pay tribute to Benji Marshall by moving their final game of the season from Bankwest Stadium to provide the departing five-eighth with a Leichhardt Oval farewell.
The NRL will lock in the venues for the final two rounds of the season on Monday, with the Tigers scheduled to play their home game against Parramatta in round 20 at Bankwest Stadium.
Benji Marshall with son Fox at his beloved Leichhardt Oval last year. CREDIT:NRL PHOTOS
However, in honour of what is expected to be Marshall’s final game for the Tigers, club officials will sacrifice ticket sales and corporate revenue from the larger venue to send the 35-year-old out at his beloved Leichhardt Oval, where he dazzled fans since his first game at the venue, ironically against the Eels in 2004.
The Tigers have opened conversations with Bankwest Stadium officials, who have expressed a willingness to hand over the final-round fixture as a mark of respect to Marshall, with the NRL also on board with the mooted venue change.
Given the COVID-19 restrictions in place in NSW, Bankwest Stadium is capable of holding about 7500 fans, however about 3200 will only be allowed in to Leichhardt Oval. The Tigers’ only other remaining home game is against the Rabbitohs in round 18, also scheduled for Bankwest Stadium.
The move will also provide the club with the opportunity to send off Marshall with one of his best friends, the retiring Chris Lawrence, who is likely to be given a Leichhardt swansong despite not featuring in the side since the round 13 loss to Newcastle.
Benji Marshall acknowledges the fans at Leichhardt Oval earlier in the year. CREDIT:NRL PHOTOS
It comes after the club confirmed Marshall would finish up at the Tigers at the end of the season, however it is still unknown whether the round 20 clash against the Eels will be a retirement party or whether he will play on elsewhere next year.
Marshall, who has represented the Tigers on 253 occasions throughout his 320-game NRL career, has asked his manager to look at other options for next year, but clubs are yet to show interest in the 2005 premiership winner.
Former coach Ivan Cleary, who opened the door for Marshall’s second coming at the club in 2018, said Marshall would be a great asset for another team next year.
“I’m happy Benji wants to play on,” Cleary said.
"He’s still got a hell of a lot to give the game if he wants to. His longevity is a credit to him in terms of the way he has transformed himself across his long career.
“It’s that sort of thing when you get late in your career, it’s a decision if you want to go through with it and keep going on. It’s great news he wants to. He’d certainly be a great asset for a club out there, for sure.”
Marshall’s former teammate Todd Payten, who is expected to go from Warriors interim coach to full-time Cowboys head coach in the off-season, also backed the playmaker’s plans to play on.
“He would be ideal for a club that has some young halves,” Payten said. "[They] could do with his leadership and guidance around game management and articulating it in a way that would resonate with those guys.
“He sees the game in a different way to most. I think that will be beneficial to any club he ends up with if he finds one.”