Tuesday 12 December 2017 / 12:07 AM

What Benji Marshall Means To The Game

In the 2008 hit comedy Step Brothers, John C. Reilly’s character Dale shows Will Ferrell a samurai sword with an obscure autograph scribbled onto the blade. It ends up being the signature of American Idol host Randy Jackson.

The reason for having the autograph makes sense as Dale explained: “I bumped into him and all I had on me was this samurai sword … and you’re not going to not get Randy Jackson’s autograph, right?”

Well, it kind of makes sense.

What makes more sense is current Cronulla Sharks coach Peter Sharp and skipper Paul Gallen standing in a room while Sharp clarifies: “You’re not going to not sign Benji Marshall, right?”What

It is expected within a matter of days that Marshall will return to the NRL for the remainder of 2014 and do so for the Sharks, reuniting with best buddy Beau Ryan and fellow former Wests Tigers players Chris Heighington, Bryce Gibbs, Andrew Fifita, John Morris, Isaac De Gois and Blake Ayshford.

The way Cronulla are travelling at the moment you can’t blame them for chasing Marshall and you cannot hold it against Marshall for wanting to get back into rugby league as quickly as possible.

Soon enough it will be obvious if the 2005 premiership-winning five-eighth still has petrol left in the tank after a disappointing stint with the Auckland Blues. Now it seems the Sharks’ odds have shortened and appear to be favourites to land the World Cup winner.

For the Sharks it’s a case of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Critics of Marshall are saying he’s over the hill and joins an already ageing Cronulla squad that are desperate for some on field. It’s at the point where the Sharks must sign him, and with paranoia setting in that someone else might snap him up, they’ve talked themselves into needing him. Well, they just might, and if Benji does end up in the Shire it will be more a measure on where Cronulla are as a club rather than a measure of Benji’s talent.

Some have suggested Marshall should slip into the halves with Todd Carney and push veteran halfback Jeff Robson into a hooking role. But surely at this point in the season Carney needs the calming influence of Robson inside him, with Marshall playing a roving role from the centres, which has been an issue for Cronulla recently, or at the very least bring him off the bench.

What do they have to lose?

Send him out after twenty minutes and throw the playbook out the window. Let Marshall follow the ball and see what transpires. The worst thing Cronulla could do is pack his brain with a thousand game plans and expect him to lead them around the field.

The funny thing is most people are licking their lips at the prospect of the besieged star failing in his return to rugby league, although you can’t keep a champion down and whether you want to admit it or not, Marshall is a champion. He exudes championship qualities and it rubs off on others and sometimes all it takes is a flick pass or a well-placed kick to fire up the engine – and we all know how capable Benji is of producing something remarkable.

In Marshall’s autobiography My Game, My Life, legendary coach Wayne Bennett writes: “Benji equals anybody I’ve seen in terms of flair and making something happen.”

Cronulla wouldn’t know what flair was if it came up and slapped them across the face and with the season fast slipping away, a shot of Benji Marshall is just what the doctor ordered.

Benji is far more than an average free agent looking for a club.

Don’t forget the Sharks have been searching for a major sponsor for what seems an eternity now, and you can bet your bottom dollar Marshall’s arrival at Remondis Stadium will spark interest from companies looking to advertise.

Marshall is more than just a player: he’s an iconic brand. Just like Sonny Bill Williams, Quade Cooper or Karmichael Hunt.

Benji’s signature at Cronulla is important in more ways than one.

 

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Curtis Woodward

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