WIZ: Benji Marshall needs time to go from a signing to a Saint

Gary Freeman Columnist

By Gary Freeman, Gary Freeman is a Roar Expert

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    Benji Marshall was once a beloved member of the Tigers for a reason. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan)

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    Now that the deed has been done and St George Illawarra have won Benji Marshall’s signature, there are many questions that need answers before the player can prove his worth to the Dragons.

    At the top of the tree is how will this enigmatic player be brought back to the NRL in a new club, surrounded by players he doesn’t know?

    Does coach Steve Price bring him in via brief cameos from the interchange bench or will Marshall be given a couple of weeks to find his feet and get some much-needed match fitness in the NSW Cup?

    Where will he be played? At halfback or in the centres as some have speculated? And if it’s halfback, who will be the Dragon’s chief playmaker, five-eighth Gareth Widdop, or Benji?

    I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, no-one outside of St George Illawarra really does. Our comments at this time are speculation and I am not prepared to predict whether his signing will be a genius decision or a downer for the joint-venture club.

    Give the Wiz about six to eight weeks and by that time I’ll be prepared to say here on The Roar whether the signing was the right move.

    League fans, especially Dragons fans, can be an impatient lot but Marshall is going to need time to find his rhythm back in rugby league after switching to rugby union. There can be no instant impact from the player – that is asking way too much.

    We are into the ninth round of the competition and some of the best players are only just starting to produce their best footy. Benji needs a reasonable amount of time to settle down, find his rhythm and learn his new team’s playing patterns.

    His confidence has taken a battering after failing in the other code and I feel he will need some time to re-adjust to league before he can start repaying the club that has invested heavily in his skills and experience.

    I also think coach Steve Price will be altering aspects of his team’s structure and playing style to accommodate a player of Marshall’s flair and spontaneity. That cannot happen overnight.

    My final comment on Marshall’s signing with the Dragons is aimed at the player himself.

    Benji, this is your last chance saloon and football must be uppermost in your mind. Put the TV appearances at Channel Nine on the back burner until you retire. Flick any radio gigs that are offered and try to keep the promotional and marketing stuff to the bare minimum.

    The money they are paying you is great, but in the end St George Illawarra did not fork out big money for a marketing tool or TV personality. They bought you because they needed something special on the field. They bought you to help win games for the Dragons.

    I wish Benji well in the exciting yet difficult weeks ahead. Who knows if he can pull off a successful comeback to rugby league?

    It is going to be fascinating to see how he and his new club go about their business.

    Gary Freeman
    Gary Freeman

    Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • May 11th 2014 @ 9:06am
      Dragons Forever said | May 11th 2014 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      Why should tigers get compo?? They stated they were not interested when he returned so therefore IMO its null and void.
      If tigers were keen and Marshall went elsewhere then I guess that is different.
      I hope Peter Doust fights hard here: remember the Moltzen backflip tigers?? Where’s our compo??

      • Roar Guru

        May 11th 2014 @ 10:33am
        Walter Penninger said | May 11th 2014 @ 10:33am | ! Report

        Is he even a registered player?

      • May 11th 2014 @ 11:32am
        eagleJack said | May 11th 2014 @ 11:32am | ! Report

        Completely different scenario to the Moltzen backflip.

        Benji was contracted to the Tigers in 2014 and 2015. His release was granted on the proviso he wouldn’t play for another NRL club in that time. Thinking he would be playing Super rugby in NZ for the foreseeable future, Tauber and Benji agreed to the terms.

        Now that he failed at rugby and wants back in the NRL they would have known about this clause.

        The Dragons will have to pay up or agree to terms before Benji takes the field. Expensive little addition.

        • May 11th 2014 @ 11:55am
          Ken said | May 11th 2014 @ 11:55am | ! Report

          Is it that black and white? I can’t find where I read it now but there was an authoritative looking article in the media a couple of weeks back saying that the Tigers will probably try that on but they didn’t really have a leg to stand on.

          Completely different to the Moltzen issue as you say, nobody’s breaking a contract here as they have released Marshall (possible payout clause not withstanding), but the Dragons are hardly going to pay out of politeness after the Tigers behaved like they did.

    • May 11th 2014 @ 10:38am
      Charles NSW said | May 11th 2014 @ 10:38am | ! Report

      Steve Price now has added another big time player to his team. With players like Dugan, Nightingale, Morris, Widdup this team is continuing to build into a good team to compete with. Benjamin Marshall is a player that has the ability to win games on his own providing his head is in the right space. The problem that the coach will have is how to utilise this brilliant player to get the best out of him. The coach has a problem with getting the right halfback and most probably will use him there. However Benji is not a halfback as he needs room to move. The Dragons also need a good centre and I believe this would be the best spot for Benji, acting as a second 5/8. He can work with Widdop as to who kicks on the last tackle. This will leave the halfback free to just working on getting the forwards going forward.

      • Roar Guru

        May 11th 2014 @ 10:52am
        Walter Penninger said | May 11th 2014 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        Dragons certainly need a centre but Ptrice is opting to fill that position with a second rower hoping that generates more defence.

        God knows what Price will do with Benji, maybe if he can beef him up he can be a prop forward.

        • May 11th 2014 @ 12:05pm
          Ken said | May 11th 2014 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

          Can’t afford Benji at centre defensively, especially if Williams gets the halfback spot, he’s never been especially strong in that area and it’s hard to protect 2 players in the frontline.

        • May 11th 2014 @ 1:08pm
          Charles NSW said | May 11th 2014 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

          The way I read it he will use both Marshall and Widdop as 5/8ths hitting both sides of the ruck!

    • May 11th 2014 @ 11:14am
      John said | May 11th 2014 @ 11:14am | ! Report

      On the tigers unless they can show there is actually a clause in his release the dragons can tell the tigers to get back on their bike and keep cycling.

    • Roar Guru

      May 11th 2014 @ 12:36pm
      djcooper said | May 11th 2014 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

      Let ch9 pay the compensation to the tigers because he will be regular no doubt on the footy show now that he has returned.

      • May 11th 2014 @ 9:26pm
        Pete said | May 11th 2014 @ 9:26pm | ! Report

        What about compensation to the Blues? Especially as they got him back in shape – lets just say he was carrying a few extra Xmas puds when he turned up for preseason.

    • May 11th 2014 @ 1:11pm
      The eye said | May 11th 2014 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

      Whats so hard about putting Gareth on one side and Benji on the other,Walter ?Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale are really going to start scoring some tries now Benjis back hungry and happy..look forward to see the impact on Dugans line breaks,too…full trust in him turning it all around..

    • May 11th 2014 @ 7:27pm
      P22 said | May 11th 2014 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

      Can’t wait to watch Benji throw cut out passes over the fence into another teams fan’s beer. Watch out dragons supporters, better get your ponchos out for all the spray coming your way

      • May 12th 2014 @ 5:24pm
        simmo green said | May 12th 2014 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

        That is one of the funnier things I’ve read in here, well done 🙂

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