Memories of ‘Jason Traitor’ as Benji Returns to Campbelltown

When Jason Taylor returned to Campbelltown as a North Sydney Bear for the first time in 1996, the Wests crowd hit him with a verbal blitzkrieg. That too was a Monday night game.

The legendary Australian band Dragon played pre-match, firing up the parochial locals who bombarded Taylor and dubbed him ‘Jason Traitor’. This led to the sharpshooter missing a shot at goal from right in front of the posts, a rare occurrence in Taylor’s long career.

Tonight another former Wests great returns to Campbelltown when Benji Marshall runs out as a St George Illawarra player. This dragon may not be able to hit the high notes of ‘April Sun in Cuba’ that Marc Hunter once did, but he will be hoping the sheer brilliance that made him the biggest name in rugby league is enough to bite his former team in the backside.

And the man in the coaches’ box for the Tigers is none other than Taylor.

In another twist of fate, this is the same venue that Marshall made his debut all the way back in 2003. On that sunny afternoon, Marshall came off the bench as a skinny 18-year-old, helping the Tigers to a slashing 52-12 victory over the Newcastle Knights.

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“From the bits I have seen of him, Benji looks a lot more controlled,” Tigers skipper Robbie Farah said over the weekend.

“I know he really enjoys the coaching of Mary (Paul McGregor) over there and he is really working hard on his game.

“I have heard him say he has come to grips with the fact he is not 22-year-old Benji anymore, he is the 30-year-old Benji.

“He is adapting accordingly and you are starting to see the benefits of it.

“They threw a lot at Melbourne, a lot of shifts, a lot of changes of direction, so you see Benji and Widdop both going across the field a lot.

“Once they take it to one side of the field they bring it straight back to the other so we have to be ready for that.”

The cold hard truth is, the Dragons were poor last week against Melbourne and will need to be better.

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Wests kicked a field goal to sink the Gold Coast Titans in the final seconds of their clash last Saturday night, the very same play that got the Magpies over the line on that Monday night back in 1996.

The question tonight is will Benji cop the same treatment as now-Tigers mentor Taylor did?

“I spent a bit of time training with him [Marshall], and the only game I played with him was my debut in 2013,” rookie Wests playmaker Luke Brooks told The Daily Telegraph.

“He had a few words to me before the game, he said, ‘play your game, don’t be too scared to do things’”.

That’s the most dangerous Benji Marshall and that too is the most dangerous Wests Tigers.

Tonight, Benji will probably get booed, nothing like Taylor did in ’96 but he will know he’s back at Campbelltown.

Three generations of Wests halfbacks will be at Campbelltown Stadium tonight.

You’ll know which ones are feeling the love, just listen to the crowd.

@CurtisWoodward1

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