FORGET the Hayne Train and the new Redfern Express. Wests Tigers champion Benji Marshall has left Jarryd Hayne and Greg Inglis in his wake to become the game’s No. 1 superstar. The fans have spoken. Emphatically. It’s Benji first and daylight second.
On the eve of tonight’s clash between Marshall’s NRL All Stars and the Indigenous All Stars on the Gold Coast, we can reveal The Daily Telegraph’s exclusive on-line poll of almost 10,000 fans has the Tigers playmaker as clearly the best player in the game.
The NRL may not get everything right, but their decision to use Marshall as a promotional figurehead this year is an inspired one.
TAB Sportsbet has also recognised his superstar qualities, installing Marshall as favourite to win this year’s Dally M Medal.
“It doesn’t surprise me to see Benji endorsed by the fans as the best in the game,” NRL chief executive David Gallop said.
“He’s one of my favourite players and I think your poll shows just how much excitement he brings to the game.”
Marshall polled 21 per cent of the on-line vote, with Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater (12 per cent) the only other player in double figures.
Brisbane skipper Darren Lockyer still commands plenty of respect, polling 9.5 per cent of votes to finish third ahead of reigning Dally M Medallist Todd Carney and North Queensland Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston.
Hayne, who shared top billing with Inglis last year, polled just 5.4 per cent, with the new South Sydney signing getting four per cent of the vote. And several of the game’s biggest names backed Marshall as the code’s top player.
“Deservedly so,” Thurston said last night.
“Benji has been on fire for the past couple of seasons.”
There was no argument from former stars such as Laurie Daley, Wendell Sailor and Gorden Tallis.
'I just love watching him play but hopefully he has an off night [tonight]," said Daley, who is coaching the Indigenous All Stars against Marshall’s NRL All Stars at Skilled Park.