Written by Stuart McLennan
Despite the narrow loss against Penrith, the Wests Tigers have accumulated admirers over the last few weeks on the back of a new level of resilience in defence, flair in attack and a willingness to go the distance with the opposition.
Coach Michael Maguire drew a line in the sand following a poor performance against the Gold Coast Titans. He signalled that he wasn’t going to tolerate the chronic inconsistent performances that have resulted in the Tigers not playing finals footy since 2011.
The axing of club favourite Benji Marshall brought a mixed reaction from the rugby league community. Many believed Madge had overreacted and Benji would be rushed back into the side after the next match.
Instead the Tigers have shown a marked improvement in the last month, winning games against the Cowboys and Bulldogs comprehensively while being highly competitive in losses to Canberra and Penrith.
The upswing in form has confined Benji’s on field appearances to the training paddock.
With players likely to be unavailable for selection due to suspension and injuries, now is the right time to bring Benji back into the 17.
Maguire used Benji successfully in the dummy half role at the back end of last season.
Starting on the bench, he would provide options to either give energiser bunny Harry Grant a 15 minute battery recharge or utilise his vision and flair in the halves.
The new six again rule has seen the speed of the game lift to a frenetic pace. Inevitable injuries and burnout will hand Marshall an opportunity to wear the black, orange and white again sooner rather than later.
Marshall admitted his defence was not up to scratch against the Titans but at the same time believes the issue is easily fixed.
In two victories previous to the Titans loss, the Kiwi international was roundly praised, winning Man of the Match awards in both games.
𝗪𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗲𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/cBwZFAfWCg
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) July 3, 2020
There was speculation that Marshall, would ask for a release and switch clubs following his demotion. The New Zealand Warriors were touted as a possible landing place.
Speaking on Fox NRL 360, Benji denied that he was unhappy and was seeking to play elsewhere.
“Anyone who knows me knows I’m going to fight to get back in the team, and mark my words I’ll be back there before the end of the year,” Marshall went on to say.
As a free agent at end of 2020 he may seriously consider a season or two in Super League to end his playing career.
It would be a smart move by Maguire and the Wests Tigers to offer Benji a position on the coaching staff. His experience and vision along with his football brain would be invaluable as the coach looks to introduce a younger generation of Tigers.
It has been reported that Marshall has been Maguire’s right hand man since the coach arrived, involving himself in team selections, recruitment and retention plans and all leadership meetings.
As the boys from Concord transform into finals contenders for the first time in nine years we have not seen the last of Benjamin Quentin Marshall.