Rugby League

Benji Marshall '50-50' at staying with St George Illawarra Dragons

Dragons halfback Benji Marshall has made the candid admission that he's only a 50-50 chance of being at the club next year as he prepares to make his first on-field appearance of 2016 in Saturday's Charity Shield.

Marshall was among the Dragons best last season but his future at the club remains clouded beyond this year as the joint-venture continues to be linked to Melbourne star Cooper Cronk, who is reportedly seeking a move to Sydney in 2017.

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Marshall has said he wants to continue his NRL career for at least another two years but conceded he may have to look elsewhere to do so.

"I'm not scared of that proposition and I know there's a 50-50 chance I'm going to have to go," Marshall said.

"I'm fine with it, I'm not stressed or worried about it. I know I can make that transition if I have to.

"I've  just said to my manager [Martin Tauber] 'talk to to whoever you have to talk to'. We're open to any offers anywhere and everywhere.

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"We'll sit down at a certain time and go through all the options and I'll make the decision that's best for me.

"I'd love to stay and my priority is to get a contract here. I've told 'Mary' [coach Paul McGregor] the same thing. 

"He just said he hasn't had permission from the board to re-sign me yet and they probably looking at my footy to do the talking.

"I'm not sure where the club's at with that but I'm pretty sure they want to see me play a bit of footy this year before they make their mind up. 

"I'll probably go back to them before the season starts to see where they're at and come up with a plan.

"To be honest I haven't really got a plan at the moment. I'll just let Martin do his job and I'll do my job and we'll meet somewhere before the season starts and talk about what's best."

Marshall admits the links to Cronk have made him the butt of a few jokes at training.

"The boys give me a bit of stick about it," he said.

"That's the problem when you're the ringleader of the all the jokes at training, when something comes back to haunt you they give it to you.

"But that's the thing about footy, it's become a business and clubs have got to chase what's going to be in their best interest. It's up to me to prove that I should be their number one choice to be the halfback here and lead the team around the field."

Marshall will turn 31 prior to season kickoff but - after several years carrying the weight of the Wests Tigers franchise almost solely on his shoulders - believes  his brief sojourn in New Zealand with Super Rugby franchise Auckland Blues will ultimately prolong his career.

"I don't think I'd still be playing if I didn't [leave]," Marshall said.

"It's something I needed. I needed a change, a bit of a freshen up and bit of a look in the mirror.

"That's been the best thing about being here with Mary, he's really coached me as a person as well as a player and made me feel excited about playing again. 

"I drive and hour and 20 [minutes] here and two hours home every day. That's not normal but that's how much I love being here and being an integral part of this club."

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