Benji Marshall’s manager has advised the Tigers he wants a release from his contract at the end of 2013 to play rugby union. Former Wallaby Greg Martin blasted the playmaker, calling him a ‘spoilt brat’ and ‘too fat’ on radio.
Reports have been floating around for a number of weeks now that Marshall was frustrated with the lack of movement from the Tigers towards extending his contract until 2017, as allowed by a clause in his contract once the salary cap was increased.
His current deal is due to expire in 2015.
On Tuesday morning firm reports emerged that Marshall had indicated to the club he would be requesting a formal release, although that hasn’t been handed in at the time of writing.
It appears the best options for Marshall are the Auckland Blues, Waratahs and possibly a stint in Japan to earn some extra dough over the Southern Hemisphere off-season.
That news and the publicity afforded Marshall’s public quest to move into rugby somewhere apparently ticked off Martin.
He went on Triple M’s The Grill Team and unleashed what he really thinks about Marshall’s league career and prospects of success in rugby.
Martin ranted for almost two minutes deriding the ability for Marshall to switch codes and be successful at this stage of his career.
He said Marshall was, “fabulous in 2004” but that was the “last time he did any bloody thing” and went on to describe him as “chubby around the girth”.
In what is perhaps an over-exaggeration he said Marshall “makes Quade Cooper look like Trevor Gillmeister in defence”.
Gillmeister’s nickname during his rugby league career – spanning a decade and including 22 State of Origin appearances – was ‘The Axe’. It was such an apt nickname for his play it stuck even after his career, when writing for the Sunday Mail.
Cooper has improved his defence in recent times and actually threw his body into a couple of tackles against the Waratahs, but Martin may have overstepped the mark there.
For what it’s worth there’s probably a strong chance Marshall’s recent inability to set the league on fire would have something to do with the failures of the club as a whole recently as well as the coaching change and player turnover.
It wasn’t much longer than 2011 and some of the early rounds of last year that people still considered Marshall one of the more exciting players in the NRL and had the ability to get crowds to a game.
Marshall is 28 and has been through some very taxing injuries to his shoulders over the years so would probably have an older body in terms of miles and longevity than that.
As far as his rugby chances go Marshall would certainly be one of the best players in the Japanese competition if he decided to dabble and make some quick money there or set up his base in a new country.
His ability to shine in Super Rugby might be a little more limited but if you are willing to factor in the club turmoil at the Tigers into his play over the last while then it would be fair to say he would still have some very strong attacking skills to offer a suitor.
Sir John Kirwin has met with Marshall’s camp as far back as late June to Test the waters for a return to Marshall’s home country. If Marshall does indeed want a chance to play for the All Blacks then that would seem the most likely place for him to land.
The Blues haven’t ever really nailed down their long-term fly-half for a number of seasons now and Marshall would probably get a chance to compete for that position. He’d be in a fight with Chris Noakes and Baden Kerr who split time there this year.
Breaking into fullback would seem to be very difficult as Charles Piutau has shown flashes of All Black potential there this year.
On the other hand it appears the Waratahs are willing to look at him as a fullback if anything as they have a good young playmaker in Bernard Foley.
As it stands he’d need to unseat Israel Folau from fullback. If Folau doesn’t re-sign then Marshall would probably be a desirable replacement to compete with the likes of Cam Crawford and Ben Volavola who have shown potential there.
Wherever he lands it would be surprising if Marshall doesn’t have another couple of good football years in him. But allowing time for adjustment to a new code and adding in his regularly injured body taking a pounding in league from a young age, it might not be realistic to expect more than just a couple.
Here is a transcription of Greg Martin’s rant for those who can’t listen to the live feed.
“What a spoilt brat. I tell you what, if he can still be a brat at 28 years of age, he’s been at the Tigers for, 12 years. Came across from New Zealand, went to Keebra Park down the coast – Kibra Park or Miami? One of those two high schools. They parked him there, the Tigers grabbed him at 16, he’s been there ever since.
Fabulous in 2004. Oh, wait on that’s 10 years ago, last time he did any bloody thing apart from play well for New Zealand.
This bloke, he’s starting to get a little bit chubby around the girth. Have you noticed him, he’s been on holidays in Bali!
He’s now saying, ‘Listen, you guys promised me you’d sign me until 2017.’ This is the petulance of this bloke.
That’s right, that’s a big contract for a body contact sport when I haven’t seen him make a break this year, and he, doesn’t defend. He defends worse, Quade Cooper’s a – he makes Quade Cooper look like Trevor Gillmeister in defence.
Mate, I tell you what, he’s saying, ‘Oh, no, well if you guys don’t want me’, no, they’re saying, ‘yeah, we want you but we only want you til 2015.’
Mmm 2013, 14, 15 – that’s a lot of money. They’re going to give, they said we’ll give you 1.5 million. We’ll give you 700 thousand next year and we’ll give you 800 thousand in 2015, sorry about the 2017 but we’ve got a body contact sport to run here mate.
So he’s going, ‘oh well bugger you blokes, I’m going to go and play rugby.’
Benji! We don’t want you! Despite the fact you say here, ‘growing up it was a dream of mine to play for the All Blacks’, it was a dream of a lot of people to play for the All Blacks but you’ve gotta be good enough mate. You’re bloody old, you’re no good and you’re too fat.”