Let me preface by saying that Benji Marshall is one of the most brilliant rugby league players I have ever seen. The impact he has made on the game is immeasurable. I will never forget the way he burst on the scene and I’m not even a Tigers fan. A young, brash Kiwi kid from Keebra Park High captured the imagination of the rugby league world with his trademark “Benji Hop”, blinding speed and THAT flick pass to Pat Richards in the 2005 Grand Final which will live in our memories for a lifetime. That’s not to mention the astounding impact he has had on young children growing up. Now, I don’t know Benji personally, but it’s obvious he is a genuine nice guy who has given so much to so many. And so his decision to quit the game has sent shock waves to the NRL community and has administrators scurrying to preserve one of the games most loved characters. So, what do we make of this whole episode?
I watched the Footy Show interview between Benji Marshall and Erin Molan last Thursday and thought to myself, “what a load of gobbilty goo!”. That’s putting it mildly. I’ve heard the rubbish talk of a supposed handshake agreement between Benji and recently ousted CEO Stephen Humphreys. If there was, indeed, a handshake agreement, then I would be livid at my manager (in this case, Martin Tauber) for not having the professional nous to secure a water tight agreement on the spot. Handshake agreements went out with Lidcombe Oval. If this is the reason for leaving, Benji, then blame no one but your inept manager.
Another reason cited for his departure was he wanted an extension to his contract, which was not granted. Apparently he wanted five years and was only granted three. Then he was supposedly given three hours to accept the offer tabled once he returned from a mid season trip to Bali. I find this astonishing and incredibly hard to believe. My understanding is that an offer had been tabled for at least a fortnight prior to his trip. How long did you want to drag this out Benji? How about I put it in plain English mate – “Why don’t you try performing first, THEN ask for a contract extension??”. I speak with mad-as-hell Tiger fans on a daily basis and most can’t wait for him to go. Why? They are sick and tired of his performances (or lack thereof) over the last few years. The Tigers fans are fed up with his occasional flashes of brilliance blended with his all too frequent mistakes, missed tackles, poor decisions and fancy passes that sail over the touchline. “Over paid and over rated” is the common catch cry. We’re all subjected to performance standards at our workplace, so why should Benji be any different? It would be totally imprudent and irresponsible for the club to offer an aging and non performing superstar an upgraded contract. Especially, given the fact that the club has two up and coming young superstars in Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses in their system. Can you imaging the outcry from fans if one or both young players went elsewhere because Benji soaked up too much of the salary cap?
I’ve also heard the rumour that he doesn’t get along with new coach Mick Potter. He didn’t get along with Tim Sheens either, so the club got rid of him. Hey, I’ve got an idea – why don’t we just keep getting rid of all the coaches and make Benji captain AND coach? Will that make you happy Benj?
This is a business Benji. It’s purely business. This garbage about “I will not play for another club” is either a reflection of misplaced loyalty or just sheer stupidity. Get it through your head, Benji. You’re no longer needed at the club. Your future lies elsewhere. You’re neither the first nor last to be shown the door. Why don’t you try swallowing your pride and accept the challenge of relocating to another NRL club where you would be given the opportunity to, not only restore some lost respect, but also reinvent your game in much the same way as some of our true champions of the past like Wally Lewis, Peter Sterling and Darren Lockyer? Then, leave the game on YOUR terms. With your head held high and your name etched permanently in the annals of history. Instead, the rumours persist of a link with Rugby Union including, of all places, Japan! I’m surprised he hasn’t been linked with Boxing and a possible bout with Quade Cooper…
It’s quite apparent that Benji Marshall is an entity unto himself. Someone who looks outwards rather than inwards when there’s a problem. A football prima donna who would rather walk away from a problem rather than confront it. Wake up Benji! Is that the way you want to be remembered? Take one good long hard look in the mirror and, instead of fixing your hair or preparing the makeup for your tv appearances, how about trying to harden up and prove everyone wrong? If you want to walk away from the game that has given you so much, GO! Just stop sulking about it. The game owes you NOTHING. You have the chance to leave a lasting legacy. Do it in the game you love.
A (sports) Superstar is defined by his or her ability to leave a lasting legacy on their chosen sport. A Champion is defined by his or her ability to maintain sustained excellence over a long period of time. Yes, Benji was a superstar. But a champion, he ain’t. If Benji decides to go, then c’est la vie. There’s another one around the corner.