Benji Marshall was back in black and gold on Saturday for the first time in almost five years. Photo: Dean Lewins
Benji Marshall was back in black and gold on Saturday for the first time in almost five years. Photo: Dean Lewins

Revealed: Difficult truth behind Benji’s Wests Tigers exit

BENJI Marshall has opened up for the first time on his emotional exit from the Wests Tigers in 2013, revealing that he could no longer play at a club that didn't want him.

Fresh from playing a leading hand in the Tigers' shock 10-8 round one win over the Roosters on Saturday afternoon, Marshall has broken his silence on the messy details of his departure from the club for which he delivered a premiership in 2005.

Marshall said that after 200 games for the club over 11 seasons it was made clear to him that he was no longer part of the club's plans but couldn't bare the thought of playing for any other NRL club.

Benji Marshall says he no longer felt wanted at the Wests Tigers prior to his departure at the end of the 2013 season.
Benji Marshall says he no longer felt wanted at the Wests Tigers prior to his departure at the end of the 2013 season.

"To be honest I've never really touched on it because I didn't want to put anyone on show or make a big deal of it but at the time Mick Potter was the coach and the club said to me that I wasn't going to be in the plans for the future," Marshall said.

"It's hard for me to be somewhere where I don't feel wanted and I just wasn't feeling that.

"Obviously at the time I didn't want to go to another NRL club because my heart was with the Tigers so that's why I ended up going to rugby union.

"It's not something I regret because to be honest with you if I didn't leave I probably would have retired a lot earlier from getting too comfortable there and a bit complacent. Just feeling a bit lost the last couple of years there.

"With regards to leaving, I was able to find a bit of myself again, the reasons why I play footy, enjoying the game.

"When something gets taken away from you and it gets given back you appreciate it a bit more."

Benji Marshall (right) celebrates a Wests Tigers try with Esan Marsters and Michael Chee Kam on Saturday. Photo: Dean Lewins
Benji Marshall (right) celebrates a Wests Tigers try with Esan Marsters and Michael Chee Kam on Saturday. Photo: Dean Lewins

After stints with the Auckland Blues, St George Illawarra and the Brisbane Broncos, Marshall was given the opportunity to return to the Tigers by coach Ivan Cleary on a one-year deal.

Expected to fill a utility role off the bench, Marshall was thrust into the starting side on Saturday following a hamstring injury to five-eighth Josh Reynolds at the very end of Friday's captain's run and admitted that he woke up on Saturday feeling as he did on debut in round 20, 2003.

"To be honest with you, that's the most nervous I've been since my debut," said the 33-year-old.

"It was actually weird. Sitting at home my wife was like, 'You're so quiet today' and I had to tell her how nervous I was.

"First time back in the Tigers jumper for a long time and just didn't want to let the boys down.

"I was actually sweating leading into the game so I was just happy to get through it.

"It was a bit emotional, I'm not going to lie.

"I was reading a few text messages from friends, past players and a lot of the '05 guys that I played with and just how much it meant to other people having me back at the Tigers.

"But then I thought about what it actually meant to me.

"I've never had the opportunity to be back there like I am now.

"Ivan obviously let me have that opportunity and I just wanted to repay a bit of that back by trying to put in a good performance."

 

Benji Marshall is happy back at Wests Tigers. Photo: Richard Dobson
Benji Marshall is happy back at Wests Tigers. Photo: Richard Dobson

Ironically, the moment in Saturday's return to the black and gold that allowed Marshall to compose himself was losing halves partner Luke Brooks - along with Mitchell Moses one of the young halves the club saw as Marshall's successors - to the sin bin.

Finally accepting of the fact that he is not the same player who thrilled Wests Tigers fans for so long with individual acts of brilliance, Marshall is embracing the opportunity to have a calming effect on the fortunes of his side.

"My role has definitely changed from back then but it's something I'm really enjoying and embracing," he said.

"The hardest part for me is trying to embrace that I'm not that player that I was in 2005 and having to accept that I can't do those things and accept that things have changed.

"Until you accept it and understand that you're getting old and can't do those things, you won't change.

"That's the biggest part of it, being able to be honest with yourself and know that you can't do that and that you've just got to move on past it.

"That's the balance that I struggled to find, how to do that and be able to contribute to games.

"People talk about game management a lot but the 10 minutes last night when Luke got sin binned was the stage at where I'm at in my career where I thought, the team needs me to kick the ball out here, waste a couple of minutes and try and get through this 10-minute period, get Luke back on and then go back into the grind of the game again.

"That's probably something that I wouldn't have done 24 months ago and that's something that I feel proud of now, that I can say that's where I've gotten to in the game."


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