The most confounding signing of the off-season has come to fruition, with Benji Marshall’s management confirming the Kiwi veteran has signed a one-year deal with the Brisbane Broncos.
The move appears to make little sense for club or player, prompting Broncos greats such as Steve Renouf and Wally Lewis to publicly declare their bewilderment.
— FOX SPORTS NRL (@FOXNRLLive) October 21, 2016
After shunning an extension worth $300,000 from St George Illawarra earlier this year, the 31-year-old has signed for somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 to shift north – and the likelihood of him playing much first grade at all appears remote.
Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford are locked in as the first-choice halves pairing, while back-up Kodi Nikorima has worn the No.7 at Test level for New Zealand. The other dubious options for Marshall are challenging for a centre spot, or going head-to-head with the more versatile Nikorima for the bench utility slot.
— Andrew Voss (@AndrewVossy) October 21, 2016
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has been a Marshall fan since working together during the Kiwis’ triumphant 2008 World Cup campaign, while there is speculation he has been brought on board primarily in a mentoring capacity for the brilliant, but somewhat inconsistent, Hunt and Milford.
“We think he’s got another two to three years in him but we’ll take it one year at a time and Benji’s happy to do that,” Marshall’s representative Mario Tartak told EON Sports Radio.
“… signed and sealed today and hopefully registered with the NRL next week.
“We made a few inquiries (to the NRL) but we shouldn’t have a problem with (the registration) at all.
Tartak confirmed the 2010 Golden Boot winner heads to Brisbane with no guarantees of a top-grade position.
“There’s no promises but in saying that, Wayne being Wayne will give everybody an opportunity to make their top 17 week in, week out.
“Benji’s been told if he’s a hard trainer and he performs he’d definitely be selected.”
The Marshall bombshell has completely overshadowed all other player movement news this week, including St George Illawarra’s acquisition of dynamic Canberra forward Paul Vaughan, who adds much needed class to Paul McGregor’s battling squad after signing a three-year deal.
The Dragons have also bolstered their halves stocks by offering a deal to Illawarra Cutters pivot Shaun Nona, who had been slated to join Townsville Blackhawks in 2017.
Gold Coast remain in the hunt for Kiwi Test star Kevin Proctor, despite still being contracted to Melbourne for another two years. The Titans are throwing big money Proctor’s way, determined to get their man as a replacement for Greg Bird, who was released to Catalans.
Meanwhile, South Sydney continues to lock in its long-term roster, extending hooker Damien Cook – who was looking likely to head to Cronulla after the Rabbitohs secured Robbie Farah – until 2019 on the back of superstars Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds last week committing to the club until 2020.
The Sharks’ forward depth has seen Jesse Sene-Lefao sign a two-year contract with Castleford Tigers. The 26-year-old, who showed real promise at Manly but was barely able to get a look-in at Cronulla, would have been a handy pick-up for a number of NRL clubs, but will now ply his trade in Super League.
In the up-and-comers department, there’s been some swapping around between Souths and Penrith, with boom Panthers three-quarter Braidon Burns heading to Redfern and Rabbitohs utility Liam Coleman – son of former Souths halfback great Craig – heading out west.