By Wayne Cousins
8/09/2011 6:30:32 PM

Wests Tigers Test winger Lote Tuqiri has praised the defensive work of superstar five-eighth Benji Marshall.

On the eve of the qualifying final against St George-Illawarra Dragons, Tuqiri said Marshall had worked incredibly hard on his defence – a word not normally associated with the brilliant playmaker whose freakish skills can mesmorise opponents and leave fans breathless.

“He has really improved his defence over the last couple of years having bad shoulders from the reconstructions three to four years ago,’’ Tuqiri said.

“Benji is full of confidence now and willing to defend really well.”

Tuqiri admits to being in awe at times of what Marshall can produce out of nothing.

“Benji has been unbelievable this year. You still shake your head,’’ Tuqiri said.

“You probably don’t appreciate it as much as you should when you are in the moment and playing with him because you see him every day and every week at training.

“Hopefully we can go a fair way this year and appreciate it a bit more. His game has really come round.

“He is a genius with the ball in hand. He is a freak.”

Tuqiri will play just his eighth game of the season on Friday night after a horror run with injuries.

He says the depth within the club to cover the losses through injury to himself, centre Chris Lawrence and second-rower Simon Dwyer, was one of the reasons why the team had won eight games straight.

“Guys like Mitch Brown have stepped up for Chris despite not having much experience in that position before while Matt Utai has also played in the centres,’’ Tuqiri said.

“You then have the young props in Aaron Woods and Matt Groat who have certainly picked up a fair bit over the last couple of weeks, so there is a good feeling within the squad.

“We are looking forward to getting out there on Friday and playing the Saints. Big time footy, what more could you ask for?”

Tuqiri injuries add hunger for NRL title
Ben Horne
September 8, 2011 - 5:24PM


Lote Tuqiri came to the Wests Tigers for a reason, to win his second NRL premiership.

And after a year dominated by injuries, the dual international is feeling a sense of urgency about achieving that goal in 2011, before it’s too late.

Tuqiri will be 32 by the time the grand final comes around, and after 19 weeks spent on the sidelines this season, the winger has had plenty of time to think.
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For the majority of his career Tuqiri has been injury free, but the back-to-back blows of a broken arm, high ankle sprain and quad strain have made him appreciative of the chance to even be lining up against St George Illawarra in Friday’s qualifying final.

Tuqiri, who won a premiership with Brisbane in 2000, has conquered more than most in 13-years across league and union, but revealed fitness frustrations have now made him hungry for more success.

“Yeah, 100 per cent. I chose the Tigers (in his return to league last season) because I thought they were a chance and we certainly are,” Tuqiri told AAP.

"We play a good brand of footy and that was a big thing for me to come here and play, and I haven’t been disappointed.

“You appreciate it more, you certainly do. Being an older bloke and certainly after the year I’ve had, you just want to get out there and play some decent footy and not leave anything in the tank.”

While Tuqiri was on the sidelines, the Tigers suffered a mid-year form slump which included a month without a win.

With key players signing elsewhere and rumours circulating about the future of several others, Tuqiri admits the Tigers were in a tough spot.

Although their eventual fourth-place finish suggests things were always in hand, Tuqiri said that wasn’t really the case.

It’s not often that a team with a golden shot at a premiership could be described as having a difficult season, but that’s exactly how Tuqiri sees it.

“It wasn’t always in control, there were probably outside influences that I guess were saying things that weren’t true at times but it’s nothing we could control,” he said.

"We’ve come through it now, we’ve finished fourth and we’re just thankful we’re here and we’ve got another crack at it.

“It’s been a tough year for the club and I guess personally as well with injury, but I’m here and I’m playing footy and we’re in with a chance.”

Tuqiri credits five-eighth Benji Marshall as one of the main catalysts for the Tigers dramatic turnaround in form.

The Fijian-born star says he’ll wait until he writes his autobiography before revealing who the best player he ever played with is, but Marshall is on the short list.

“He’s certainly up there, I’ll probably appreciate it more when I finish footy,” he said.

"When you’re playing with him you do appreciate it, but it seems it’s pretty much a norm.

“But when you watch the replays the bloke’s just a freak, and it’s not the norm.”

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