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St George Illawarra favourites to sign Benji Marshall

Planning his return: Benji Marshall.

Planning his return: Benji Marshall. Photo: Anthony Johnson

The longer Benji Marshall takes to resolve his playing future, the more likely it seems he will join St George Illawarra.

A decision on where Marshall would be playing had been expected on Friday but he is understood to still be waiting for the Dragons to forward their offer in writing.

Cronulla have been keen to sign Marshall since before he called time on his stint in Super Rugby with the Blues, and even sought to test his interest when he was playing the rival code.

In limbo: Benji Marshall.

In limbo: Benji Marshall. Photo: Getty Images

However, Marshall was focused on making a success of his move to rugby union until a meeting with Blues coach John Kirwan on Easter Sunday.

The Sharks immediately became favourites to snare his services when the 29-year-old former Wests Tigers playmaker announced he was returning to the NRL, but firstly Melbourne Storm and now St George Illawarra have appeared to hold more appeal.

While Marshall has several close friends among the seven former Tigers teammates at Cronulla, the Storm and Dragons arguably offer more from a football point of view.

In Melbourne, he would be able to play alongside Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk in a team coached by Craig Bellamy, while at the Dragons he would be in a backline featuring Gareth Widdop, Josh Dugan, Brett Morris, Jason Nightingale, Gerard Beale and Dylan Farrell.

The only thing St George Illawarra are missing is a top flight halfback. Coach Steve Price has used Michael Witt, Sam Williams, Adam Quinlan and Kyle Stanley in the role at various times during the opening eight premiership rounds.

Marshall would share the playmaking duties with Widdop, and there would possibly be less pressure on him than at Cronulla, sitting at the bottom of the table with just two wins following an injury-plagued start to the season in which Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Todd Carney and Andrew Fifita have all spent time on the sideline.

Money is not a factor as only about $100,000 is believed to separate the respective offers from the Dragons and Sharks, covering the rest of this season and the next two.

Initially, there had been speculation the Cronulla deal was somehow linked to a $1 million per season offer from Salford, but Marshall never considered playing in England and if that was the case it no longer is. 

Melbourne's offer is only until the end of the season, but it is understood Marshall has not officially ruled out the Storm as was previously believed. 

Meanwhile, Warriors fullback Kevin Locke has signed a lucrative three-year deal with Salford Red Devils in the English Super League.

Locke, who will join the club at the end of the 2014 NRL season, had been courted by millionaire owner, Marwan Koukash. “Kevin Locke is one of the most exciting talents in the game,’’ Koukash said in a statement on the club’s website. ‘‘Not only that but we have taken him from the NRL – something people kept telling me couldn’t be done. This signing proves that we will be competitive at the very top of the sport. Kevin is one of two major signings we have made for 2015 this week ... we will be releasing more information on the other later in the season.”

Locke, who was expected to bring up his 100th game with the Warriors this year, had been sidelined by a knee injury for the past few months and made his reserve grade return three weeks ago. Koukash, one of Britain’s biggest racehorse owners, is understood to have been in Australia and New Zealand in the past week to have discussions with several NRL players.

with Fairfax NZ

14 comments so far

  • How many times did the Tigers make the eight while Benji was there?

    North of sydney
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 7:06PM
    • Four, I think, including knocking St George out of the finals once or twice.

      Date and time
      May 03, 2014, 5:43PM
    • three out of ten!

      north of sydney
      Date and time
      May 05, 2014, 2:21PM
  • "While Marshall has several close friends among the seven former Tigers teammates at Cronulla, the Storm and Dragons arguably offer more from a football point of view."

    Do they now?

    Both those sides on the slide. Sharks are the up and comers with their rich assets. Forget Benji Sharkies. Has the potential to be the worst buy since Guavalo (?spelling) was signed by Souths. Should be able to get two or three promising halves for the rumoured $500k per season.

    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 9:35PM
    • Shark are the up and comers? really? Bwaaahhhaaaahhhaaaahhhaa.

      Date and time
      May 03, 2014, 6:24PM
  • A genuine question: What other RL player who, upon transitioning to RU, was put into the most technically-difficult position in a Union back line without first having played in some less demanding position? I'm not saying that wing, centre and fullback don't have their challenges, but the likes of Tuqiri, Rogers, Folau, Sailor etc never had to rise to that level of challenge when they first crossed over.

    Lewis Winders
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 10:54PM
    • Why would any NRL club waste money on this bloke? He's unfit, unmotivated, and unconvincing. His last 2 years with the Tigers were ordinary. He's well past his use-by date.

      Kermit Jagger
      Date and time
      May 03, 2014, 6:55AM
      • What has St George done wrong to deserve Benji... the most overated slacker in the game

        Date and time
        May 03, 2014, 8:13AM
        • St George has had bigger slackers than Benji eg M Gasnier in his final couple of years. Benji will at least be better than that.

          Date and time
          May 03, 2014, 5:46PM
      • U little beauty,finally a quality halfback....go get 'm benjie...

        Date and time
        May 03, 2014, 11:58AM

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