Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Marshall's league exit an ugly mess

Low-rent home movie approach tardy. Besides, he'd be better off in ITM Cup.

What a mess. Benji Marshall's brilliant league career is ending in tatters, so why not cut to the chase, engineer his immediate removal from the West Tigers and let him get an early taste of rugby with Auckland in the ITM Cup.

Marshall is talking a loyal Wests game, but he ain't walking one after wearing a Blues jersey for a home movie announcement that he was quitting league to join the Auckland-based Super 15 team. Displaying himself in a rugby jersey - while slouched in a chair - was a giant slap in the face to the Tigers and the NRL, but at least it indicated where his head and heart are. The media also got the flick - perhaps they could try slipping a few questions under his front door in future.

The downtrodden Wests Tigers have four more matches to endure this year with no chance of a glorious farewell for their seminal playmaker - their shocking form and Marshall's tatty home video took care of that. The party is already over.

It's time for everyone to move on and let Marshall jump-start his rugby career in the ITM Cup, which starts this week.

The Wests Tigers are in an absolute mess - financially, administration, coaching and performance wise - and Marshall's half-hearted contributions are hardly in their interests any more. They have nothing to lose, and maybe some-thing to gain, by letting him go immediately.

From a Blues point of view, there is much to be gained by giving the league icon an advanced opportunity to learn the rules, nuances and tactics in union, which is a vastly different game to the one Marshall played as a teenager. His instincts will need an overhaul and even experienced rugby players still cry foul at the game's notoriously thick rule book.

This is proving to be a scruffy and sad ending to Marshall's league career, one which inspired a host of youngsters to believe tricky backyard footy dreams can be translated into the NRL. Marshall braved a series of massive shoulder injuries and reconstructions to build a game-changing legacy that brought the underpowered Tigers an unlikely title and the Kiwis a World Cup triumph.

But 2013 has been a shocker for a clearly out-of-condition Marshall. He was dumped as the Kiwis captain this year, primarily because he was no longer assured of or even likely to make the starting lineup. His modus operandi of working across the field is no longer effective, especially on tiring legs.

His off-the-cuff style is even harder to make work in the Kiwis, who have limited preparation and ever-changing lineups. Marshall's running angles end up in blind alleys, leave a line of sitting ducks for defenders to attack, and confuse team mates. They are in contrast to the direct and brave ways of his Kiwis replacement Kieran Foran, a prototype No6 for the current era. Even Sonny Bill Williams' foray into the five-eighths position for the Roosters resulted in performances way above anything Marshall produced for the Tigers this year.

I think Marshall will be an expensive flop in rugby, apart from the publicity value, which makes it doubly sad he isn't exiting league in style - a situation heavily of his own making. He has been a fabulous league identity and deserves to go out on his own terms with the Kiwis.

Marshall should announce his Kiwis retirement, but instead, this year's league World Cup remains a loose end that still needs tying up. His low-rent home movie approach missed the mark in every way.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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