BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Wests Tigers defeated the South Sydney Rabbitohs in a mighty comeback in Thursday night football. That should be the opening paragraph of this story – but instead – another season, more frustration.
For as much as Benji Marshall has done for the club and rugby league, this was the final note. His last shot. It was never going to end any other way.
Benji’s style has always been the lowest percentage play.
It worked in 2005 when nobody was watching.
It got Wests Tigers a premiership.
As the years went by, we realised that the mercurial Kiwi had to be him or it was never worth him showing up.
Shoot for the sun.
Eventually he was going to get burnt.
And it did happen.
With Wests Tigers’ season on the line and with victory between their teeth, Benji grubber kicked for the in-goal. Down by two points on the second tackle with just mere minutes to play.
Live by the sword and die by the sword.
Coach Michael Maguire coaches a certain way. Benji Marshall plays another way. On Thursday night, desperately trying to hang on to his career, he went back to what he knew.
It didn’t work.
As always, Marshall’s style has never been anything more than a 50-50 play.
With the curtain coming down, both Channel Nine and Fox League pushed and pushed Benji’s case.
Passes went wildly over the sideline.
Others went through teammates’ legs.
On Channel Nine, Phil Gould blamed his wingers. On Fox, ’Blocker’ ignored the bad times. A Sydney Morning Herald journalist went on Twitter and called him the ’King’ and expected him to be picked up by someone else for 2021.
Gould took to Twitter himself and replied to a fan question saying Benji would be ”impossible to replace”.
Wests Tigers are in deep trouble.
Although he’s heading back to the Melbourne Storm, Harry Grant is the team’s best player. Grant and Grant alone should be running Wests Tigers’ attack.
The fact is Benji Marshall is a decent human being.
An incredible shooting star that inspired a generation.
Fellow Kiwi Kieran Foran is also looking for a contract in 2021.
If you were an NRL head coach and had to decide between Foran and Marshall – there simply isn’t a choice.
Despite his injury concerns, Foran’s style suits the NRL far more. He digs into the line, plays square and really tough. He takes players with him.
It’s lovely to romanticise about the flicks and steps and no-look passes but it’s time for some reality.
And it’s not a blight on Benji Marshall.
It’s a knock on Wests Tigers that they haven’t come up with a succession play or developed someone else to take his spot.
This is a Wests Tigers problem. It’s on the organisation that they had no option but to bring the wizard back again and expect even more from him.
It isn’t Benji’s fault. He’s a casualty of his own club’s fame – which they only ever achieved because of him.
Benji is just the fall guy and it’s simply ’Father Time’.
It’s not on Marshall…
Marshall does Marshall things.
The bloke will be playing somewhere when he’s fifty doing the same thing.
It’s what he does. He just plays his footy.
Wests Tigers have kind of just spluttered from one thing to the next.
Blame the club for how much we still expect from Benji Marshall.
Why is all the pressure on Benji, still, in 2020?
One of the greats.
But what do Wests Tigers do now?