Benji Marshall is a pivot without a place to call home in 2017. The Dragons have decided to ‘go in a different direction’ and the No 6. still feels he has a lot to offer a club. So why not the Newcastle Knights?.
Benji has to move clubs or retire. He doesn’t appear ready to go into coaching or administration and you can see it in his eyes in interviews and T.V. appearances. He is hungry to play. So if he is to move clubs it appears the perfect fit for him right now would be the Newcastle Knights; why?
Benji is a ball running five eighth:
Marshall has enjoyed a successful career, winning a premiership early in the piece, in a 2005 Tigers side that under the tutelage of Tim Sheens changed the way Rugby League was played in the modern era. During that season the Tigers used a roster that moved away from the traditional big forward pack to assert dominance and opted for a smaller mobile ball playing forward pack. It allowed for quick play of the ball around the ruck and plenty of offloads. They concentrated on slick attack and Marshall was a freewheeling five eighth, that Sheens gave licence to do whatever he pleased. In fact in the finals series alone from their first Semi Final to the Grand Final they put on 134 points to their oppositions collective 40.
We had never seen a player run like Marshall before and we had never seen a player step like Marshall had before. You look at players like Johnson and Milford and you can see the Marshall step.
On his return to the Dragons and in the most recent season Benji has had to play halfback. Not that he isn’t capable however when your instinct is run and the game plan says pass or kick into the corner, it stifles what the player can do and what the fans want to see. Benji needs to be beside a ball playing halfback who can control a game plan and leave him to do as he pleases when he has the ball in hand.
Enter Trent Hodkinson of the Newcastle Knights. Hodkinson is the cool headed organiser who only two season ago steered NSW to an historic series win, breaking the QLD streak. You put Hodkinson beside Marshall and you might have just found the Ying to Benji’s Yang. Just like he had with Scott Prince in 2005.
The timing is perfect
Nathan Brown has often said in press conferences he has to field a near NSW cup side every week. He has a very young roster with some exciting talent coming through. In his farm of young halfbacks coming up through the ranks including, Jake Mcnamara, Brendan O’Hagan and Nicholas Newman the most exciting prospect of these players is Brock Lamb. Lamb is an U18 Origin representative player and an Australian Schoolboy and got a taste of first grade in 2016 with a couple of games. However Lamb won’t be ready for two to three years. Marshall has two to three years left in his career. The timing couldn’t be better. The Knights could use Marshall in a mentoring role for Lamb and bring him through first grade as Benji’s career winds down. In two years’ time the Master will have been able to pass on everything he knows to the young apprentice.
The price is right
Newcastle’s only real marquee player is Hodkinson, and it is assumed Mullen probably takes up a fair bit of the cap. However Akuila Uate looks to be moved on at the end of the season which should free up at least 500K in the cap and that is about how much Marshall probably commands at the back end of his career.
He is still in form
2016 has hampered Marshall a little with injury as he has only been able to play 12 games. But you only have to go back to 2015 and Marshall was second on the Dally M count.
Marshall still has a lot to offer the game, he is commercially viable and people still turn out to see him play. In the right position with the right structure he could still thrive and it would be a shame for him to be forced into to retirement prematurely.