They were minutes away from an NRL grand final berth in 2010, and Wests Tigers superstar Benji Marshall believes emerging halfback Robert Lui could be the player to tip them over the edge in 2011.
Lui showed he was primed for a big campaign with a barnstorming performance in the Tigers’ final trial against Sydney Roosters on Saturday night - the 21-year-old scoring one try, setting up two others and adding a field goal in the 19-8 win at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The Tigers have been tipped by many as the team to challenge premiers St George Illawarra in this year’s race for the title, after going within a whisker of toppling the Dragons in the 2009 preliminary final.
With no major off-season signings, the Tigers were always going to have to improve from within to go better in 2011, with Marshall pointing to Lui’s development as a key to the club’s potential rise.
“Definitely - he’s got a big role to play this year, along with Timmy Moltzen,” Marshall said of his scrumbase partner.
“I’m really excited to see how he progresses and hopefully he can can keep that up over the next few weeks and he can produce that form over every week.”
With Lui emerging as a dominant No.7, the Tigers could boast one of the best playmaking triumvirates in the competition with his combination with Marshall and skipper Robbie Farah sure to cause a few headaches for opposition defences.
“It’s a credit to him, he’s worked hard,” Marshall said of Lui.
"I thought he finished last year off well and (against the Roosters), it just goes to show, if defences start worrying about sliding for me, he just goes through the middle.
“It takes pressure off my game.”
The trial against the Roosters had shaped as a potential shootout for the No.7 jumper between Lui and Moltzen, but the latter now appears certain to start the round one clash against Canterbury on the bench.
Lui’s biggest challenge had been to find the voice to override Marshall and Farah in demanding the ball, but there appeared little hesitation on that front against the Roosters.
“I do feel more confident (calling for the ball) - Benji and Robbie say to me every session `take control because you’re the halfback’,” Lui said.
"But they’re still Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, they do amazing things and I’m just there to help them out.
"It’s hard (overriding them), they’re international players, I look up to both of them … when they say to do something you just do it.
how hard would it be for a kid to overide those two and he’s starting to do it. Thurston is on his last legs and Lui will take over the QLD halfback role within 2 years……there, i said it.
thats a big call, but i also see it happening.
i’ve previously stated i see lui turning into a thurston like creative player in time.