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I am just an average rugby player, says candid Benji Marshall of NRL comeback

I was just average: Benji Marshall will return to the NRL after a fruitless stint with the Blues in Super Rugby.

I was just average: Benji Marshall will return to the NRL after a fruitless stint with the Blues in Super Rugby. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Benji Marshall has no regrets about his move to rugby union and believes he will be better for the experience when he returns to the NRL this season.

Marshall, who received just 212 minutes of game time in eight Super Rugby matches for the Auckland Blues, insists frustration at the lack of opportunity was not the reason for his decision to seek a release and described himself as "just an average rugby player".

In an interview with Fairfax Media on Monday, a relaxed Marshall spoke honestly about why his switch to union "just didn't work out" as he and Blues coach John Kirwan had hoped.

"My lack of the technical aspects of rugby union was what was letting me down and I felt like I was playing rugby league on a rugby field with 14 other rugby players," Marshall said. 

"But I definitely don't regret it because I have got everything I wanted to get out of it except the performance on the field, which just hasn't worked out the way I wanted it to and I am just an average rugby player. I got a fresh start back in New Zealand, got fit, got the motivation, got the hunger and I feel real good and feel fresh."

However, the 29-year-old said he had learnt a lot in the eight months since he left Wests Tigers and was keen to bring that knowledge to the NRL again after instructing his manager Martin Tauber to open talks about joining a new club once his release is approved by the New Zealand Rugby Union.

"The thing that coming here has made me realise is that I got comfortable and probably took it for granted a bit [at the Tigers]," Marshall said.

"When I came here I had to work so hard for it and I was in a position I hadn't been in before, and it has given me that motivation back to be the best.

"I had a crack at it and it just didn't work out but honestly I haven't been this happy for a long time and I feel like I am a better person for being here. It has helped me having to put myself out there a bit more and get to understand the younger guys."

The rule changes introduced in the NRL this season to speed up the game are likely to suit Marshall, who became disillusioned and decided to change codes after a dispute over a new five-year contract he believed the Tigers had agreed to.

Cronulla, St George Illawarra, Parramatta, South Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are all likely to interested in a star playmaker of Marshall's calibre and experience.

But after shifting between fullback and five-eighth in his limited appearances for the Blues, Marshall said he could play a number of positions in the NRL.

"I think I could play halfback, five-eighth or fullback," said Marshall, who has watched "every game" of NRL this season and described the standard of football as "awesome".

"I have learnt some new skills while I have been here. I feel fit and I feel good so I am ready for the next part. It might take a few weeks to get a feel for it again but in my head I understand the game properly which is probably the most important thing."

After playing the final 42 minutes at five-eighth in the Blues' loss to the Hurricanes on Friday night, Marshall had a meeting with Kirwan on the weekend in which it was suggested he either play the rest of the season in the lower tiers to help prepare him for the 2015 Super Rugby competition or return to rugby league.

"My options were to either go back and play club rugby for the rest of the year and develop that way, then play in the ITM Cup and come back after having that experience and knowledge to try and make it again next year," Marshall said. "The other option was to go back to what I already know the best. 

"The decision was not about being frustrated about game time, I love it here. I have probably got a couple of years left in me realistically and I want those to be enjoyable and competitive and at the higest level. I don't really want to go back to club level and have to start again in rugby." 


  • How can South Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane afford Marshall and still be under the salary cap? I'd be looking askance at the Dragons too after they bumped up Dugan's contract.

    Date and time
    April 22, 2014, 12:38AM
    • Souths lost 10 players since last year, they will easily be under the cap - and that's why they are recruiting heavily at the moment.

      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 9:59AM
    • We all saw how he played in his last year at the Tigers - VERY POORLY.
      Any serious / decent coach would not pay him big bucks, he is not worth it. He is however a great marketing attraction for any club so third-party deals could top up his pay.
      He would be a good mentor for some of the younger guys, but he wont be a quick fix to any club.

      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 10:15AM
    • I agree with Scotty on this one. What coach would want him? The bloke can't tackle and he wasn't even any good with the ball in hand in his last season at the tigers. At to that the difficulty that the coach had in managing his personality. Benji would be an expensive liability for most clubs. Cronulla would be mad to buy him.

      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 12:22PM
  • Benji is an average rugby union or league player now. He a was a very good rugby league player for a number of years, but he became an average player a couple of years ago.

    Date and time
    April 22, 2014, 5:25AM
    • Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance. There's a long list of veteran players who rejuvenated their careers by changing clubs. I reckon Marshall could be good value to the right club with the right coach for him.

      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 9:13AM
    • Totally agree.

      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 9:26AM
    • He is only 29 and those magical skills he showed pre 2010 have not disappeared. I personally would like to see him back in the NRL and would not be surprised if he finds that form again which would only benefit the new club and the game.
      I dont understand the hate really. I know his departure was not on the best of terms but the marriage ended so time to get back on the market. I do not see why people should hold it against him. It is like people want to see him fail.

      Sauce Head
      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 10:01AM
  • The two clubs that have not been mentioned and IMO could really use him are Canberra and North Queensland. As a Dragons supporter I say pass thank you.

    Man From Mars
    Date and time
    April 22, 2014, 5:34AM
    • Yep, NQ Cows need a decent hooker. Isn't that where old backs end up?

      Jill Barnes
      Date and time
      April 22, 2014, 8:44AM

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