Benji marshalls NRL stars
David Beniuk - SMH
March 2, 2011 - 3:34PM
Rugby league superstar Benji Marshall has officially launched the 2011 NRL season in the game’s western Sydney heartland.
The new face of the NRL and, unusually, the New Zealand Test captain, has delivered a speech he wrote himself to officials, coaches and players at the Casula Powerhouse near Liverpool in Sydney’s south west.
The NRL also unveiled its new television commercial, a pointed message to the expanding AFL that features rock supergroup Bon Jovi’s song This is Our House.
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“There’s a lot of fierce rivalry in this game but there’s also a lot of respect and, as much as I want the Kiwis to win the Four Nations again this year and the Tigers to win the 2011 premiership, I’m here today to represent the hopes of every player in every club,” Marshall said.
Prominent in the Wests Tigers five-eighth’s speech was a pledge of support for victims of the Christchurch earthquake and the floods in Queensland and Victoria.
“Let me assure you on behalf of the players, we’ll be doing everything we can to support those causes,” he said.
Less prominent was 2010 Dally M medallist Todd Carney, who played no role in proceedings after he was charged with drink-driving on the weekend.
The league will be hoping for a season devoid of the massive salary cap scandal which rubbed Melbourne out of the 2010 premiership, while an independent commission, a new television deal and possible expansion will all be off-field issues this year.
Marshall’s Tigers are among the favourites to knock premiers St George Illawarra from their perch this year, while the Golden Boot winner tipped Parramatta as dark horses and Gold Coast as a major threat.
He said players like Canberra fullback Josh Dugan and Newcastle winger Akuila Uate were ready to light up stadiums from Townsville to Melbourne.
“You fight to catch your breath, you think wow, that was amazing but you never tell them that,” Marshall said.
"I don’t want to rub it in but, let me tell you, it’s more exciting than I ever imagined.
"There are times when you soar so high that it seems unreal and there’s times where, let me tell you, you can’t explain the disappointment.
“But there’s always the chance to take a risk and have another go and for me that’s what footy’s about.”
The season kicks off on Friday week.
Benji Marshall pledges support to disaster victims as he launches the NRL season
Brad Walter - SMH
March 2, 2011 - 2:19PM
Wests Tigers superstar Benji Marshall has officially launched the NRL season by offering the support of all players to the victims of last week’s earthquake in Christchurch and the recent floods in Queensland and Victoria.
Marshall, who won the Golden Boot award as the world’s best player last season, said he felt helpless watching the scenes of devastation in his native New Zealand but vowed the NRL players would do what they could to help.
The Kiwis captain said he had visited flood damaged areas in Queensland with the Tigers and was shocked to find the situation even worse than he expected.
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“It is hard to watch because there is nothing I can do, at the moment,” he said. “When I actually got to Queensland it was worse than what it seemed on the TV so I can’t imagine what it is like in New Zealand at the moment.”
Marshall, who played 34 matches last season for the Tigers and Kiwis, said it was an honour to be chosen to open the 2011 season at Casula Powerhouse, where Penrith forward Frank Puletua has produced an exhibition showcasing the passion of fans.
"As a young bloke I dreamed of just what it would be like to play in the NRL and I am honoured to be here today to launch the season on behalf of all the great players in our game,” Marshall said.
“There is someone out there each weekend doing something that just takes your breath away, something that challenges every player to try and go one better.
“You know that there are people who have saved for memberships, jerseys and scarves, people who have invested their lives in the fortunes of their team, people who are sitting where we sat when our dreams began and where we will sit again when our playing days are over.
“That’s why this exhibition of Frank’s is so important, because it celebrates the thing that holds rugby league together as players come and go – and that’s the fans.
“Some of those fans have done it pretty tough lately, people in Christchurch, in Queensland and Victoria, and on behalf of the players I can assure you that you have our support in the months ahead.”
Brisbane and Australian captain Darren Lockyer added: “Every player feels the same way now, we just can’t wait for the season to start,” he said.
“The season is a real journey. Every team, every player, is going to have their ups and downs but that’s one of the things that makes it such an exciting competition.
“The fans get to ride that emotional roller-coaster from round one all the way through to the grand final and the whole time they are going to enjoy some exciting footy.”
NRL ‘curse’ doesn’t bother Benji Marshall
By David Beniuk AAPWed, Mar 02, 2011 - 6:50 PM
Benji Marshall is fully aware of the “curse” that comes with being the face of the NRL but is adamant he’ll stay the player every kid wants to be.
In the week Dally M medallist Todd Carney’s involvement in the NRL’s season launch was scaled back, New Zealand Test captain Marshall conceded being rugby league’s pin-up boy had a checkered history.
Manly’s Brett Stewart caused the game’s flagship television commercial to be re-edited when he was banned after an alcohol-fuelled evening and charged with sexual assault ahead of the 2009 season.
Stewart was eventually cleared of the charge.
But off-field dramas are something the clean-cut Marshall, who was chosen to launch the 2011 season in the NRL’s heartland of western Sydney on Wednesday, is determined to avoid.
“After the past couple of years it was sort of a curse they reckon,” he told reporters at the Casula Powerhouse.
"It’s not going to change what I do away from the game or what I do in the game.
"I want to be the player that kids want to be when they grow up.
"I’ve had a pretty clean image and I want to keep it that way.
“I’m pretty wary of where I am and what I do to make sure I keep the same image because I know image goes a long way in life and at the end of my career I want to still have that image.”
Instead of playing a part at the launch, Carney was preparing to meet NRL boss David Gallop about his future.
“It was a relatively minor adjustment to what we were doing but we certainly think it was the right decision for him and for everyone else,” Gallop said.
Marshall said he felt for the Sydney Roosters star.
“It’s a tough call because Todd’s a young guy and I’m a young guy and you want to hang out with guys your age and do what they’re doing, but we’re key figures in this game and role models of the game,” Marshall said.
“It’s hard to take I know and, to tell you the truth, we hate the fact that we have to change the way we are.”
The launch continued the NRL’s assault on the AFL’s expansion into western Sydney, the pointed message there in rock supergroup Bon Jovi’s song This Is Our House blaring from the league’s new television commercial.
Marshall was also singing in tune, firing back at the Giants’ signing of ex-NRL star Israel Folau.
“It’s good to see the NRL hitting back and fighting back,” the Wests Tigers’ five-eighth said.
“There’s so many more Polynesians playing rugby league than there is one playing AFL, so you tell me who the Polynesians are going to follow.”
The league will be hoping for a season devoid of a salary cap scandal similar to the one that rubbed Melbourne out of the 2010 premiership.
Marshall had earlier delivered a speech he wrote himself which was strong on passion and the players’ concerns for the recent disasters in Christchurch, Queensland and Victoria.
He revealed he had been the star of the debating team at Keebra Park High School in Southport.
“When I was at high school I was probably the best at speeches that I knew,” he said.