Set of Six: Losing Benji not what the game needs

Benji Marshall. Photo / Getty Images.
Benji Marshall. Photo / Getty Images.

Justis Kamu takes a look at the speculation surrounding Benji Marshall and the other key issues from the latest round of the NRL.

1. Marshall should be a Tiger for life

Benji Marshall has all the skill in the world, but one factor that makes him a standout player is his strong loyalty to both club and country.

For someone who left these shores in his early teens to follow his dreams of an NRL career in Australia, he could've easily opted for the fame and riches of being in the Kangaroos or Queensland State of Origin.

Nowadays those yellow brick roads are the paths that most confused Kiwis (James Tamou and Josh Papali'i) prefer to tread (although ironically they still refer to the land of the long white cloud as 'home').

Loyalty, a word that seems to be devoid from the typical Generation Y footballer has not been lost on Marshall throughout his career.

Huge amounts of it has been shown by the 2010 Golden Boot winner to the West Tigers over the years where he has knocked back numerous Japanese and French rugby offers to stay at Leichhardt Oval.

In spite of his unreserved devotion to the club, it appears his time as a Tigers stalwart may soon be over after their decision to renege on a promise of an upgraded contract and a two year extension.

Yes, professional sport is a business, but for arguably the premier five-eighth in the NRL to be given altered contractual terms to accommodate for unproven emerging talent at the Tigers is a kick in the teeth.

At 28, turning 29 next season, he is no spring chicken but nor is he an old bird by any means.

Marshall is a once in a generation type of footballer alongside Johnathan Thurston, Darren Lockyer and Sonny Bill Williams.

That has been recognised by union super-coaches Wayne Smith and Graham Henry who view him as the top player in both rugby codes at the peak of his powers.

Losing him to the Blues would be huge blow to a sporting code which is making a habit of losing its elite players.

Keeping Marshall is top priority, right up there with securing SBW's signature for 2014.

He wants to be a Tiger for life, the club and the NRL must demonstrate some commitment to ensure that Marshall becomes exactly that or be left in his wake if he decides to sidestep their delayed overtures to seek a new sport.

2. Young Warriors make Vulcans bow

The advent of the National Youth Competition has had big effects on the prestige and competitiveness of the NSW Cup competition.

The NYC is now viewed by up and coming teenage players as the next step before hitting the heights of the NRL.

So it's a bold step, but the right one for the Warriors club to take, with their own concerted push to see their young starlets play in the NSW Cup before graduating to first grade.

The Auckland Vulcans lineup on Sunday against the Cronulla in the NSW Cup featured Warriors under 20s regulars David Bhana, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, David Fusitua and Albert Vete.

All players made effective contributions for their side with Vete, prop, the pick of the bunch as he skittled a number of bigger, stronger and much older players out of his way during proceedings.

The move by the club to see their younger players matched up against semi-professional and fully-fledged NRL players will bring long-term benefits which has not been addressed by the NYC to NRL approach that has been taken in recent years.

Also, for the NSW Cup, it will bring more respect for a competition that has been labelled a no-mans land for players who don't make the grade after time in the NYC.

3. Mormon missionaries reunite at Canberra

Jordan Rapana and Lagi Setu will both head to the Canberra Raiders next season to begin the next chapter of their footballing careers.

Yet it only last year when the pair were serving side by side in Birmingham, England on their mormon missionary service.

The NRL duo were together for two years in the midlands where they shared their experiences about their faith with strangers.

Their day started at 6.30am each morning, studying the scriptures and meeting people to share the gospel with, after seeing out appointments and other activities throughout the day, they would usually return home around 9.30pm.

After returning to Australis late last year Rapana had a stint with the ACT Brumbies earlier this season while Setu has been in and out of the matchday squad at the Melbourne Storm in 2013.

4. Someone sign up West Tigers' Simona

The resurgence in the West Tigers has been a true team effort with backs and forwards pitching in, even Adam Blair has found some form, with four wins in the past five matches.

None of the Tigers have been more outstanding than centre/winger Tim Simona who on the weekend against the Storm sparked two long range tries - the second a contender for try of the season.

The Tigers junior has serious speed to burn and is a nightmare for opposition teams on the counter-attack.

But what's crazy about this talented kid is that his contract ends with the Tigers at the end of 2013, he has yet to be resigned.

Teams should be lining up, if they aren't already for this 22 year old as he can seriously play - just ask the Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers who he has cut to shreds this season.

Any General Managers out there that could do with an outside back for their club's squad for 2014, Simona's signature would be a steal.
5. Bill Tupou now a Raider

The departure of 2011 Grand Finalist Bill Tupou from the Warriors playing roster may have come as a surprise for some after he re-signed for the club in 2012.

With 62 games under his belt, the NYC star, was given his opportunity to play in the big-time under former coach Ivan Cleary and has been a permanent fixture in the past two seasons.

Tupou, had been showing his best form in the early games of this season with strong displays against the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys.

Yet the rise of Glen Fisiiahi, Ngani Laumape and now David Fusitua will see the much maligned former Warrior head across to the Canberra Raiders for the next two seasons.

If fortune favours Tupou at the Raiders, he may be back to haunt the Warriors in round 25, August 25, at Mt Smart Stadium.

6. Team of the Week - round
1. Fullback - Kevin Locke (Warriors)
2. Wing - James McManus (Knights)
3. Centre - Dane Nielson (Warriors)
4. Centre - Konrad Hurrell (Warriors)
5. Wing - Tim Simona (West Tigers)
6. Five-eighth - Sonny Bill-Williams (Roosters)
7. Halfback - Luke Walsh (Panthers)
8. Prop - Aaron Woods (Tigers)
9. Hooker - Robbie Farah (Tigers)
10. Prop - Jared Warea-Hargreaves (Roosters)
11. Secondrow - Mose Masoe (Panthers)
12. Secondrow - Gavin Cooper (Cowboys)
13. Lock - Elijah Taylor (Warriors)

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