NRL: Marshall defection a concern for Elliott ahead of Tigers clash

By Michael Brown

Elliott yesterday named Manu Vatuvei in the starting side but the winger still needed to get through training before being confirmed to play. Photo / Getty Images
Elliott yesterday named Manu Vatuvei in the starting side but the winger still needed to get through training before being confirmed to play. Photo / Getty Images

Benji Marshall's future will dominate talk around the Wests Tigers this week and Warriors coach Matt Elliott is worried it will prove a distraction for his side ahead of Friday night's match between the two teams.

Marshall is seeking a release from the final two years of his Wests Tigers deal and his agent, Martin Tauber, has confirmed he will switch to rugby at the end of the season.

The 28-year-old was named in the Tigers side to face the Warriors at Leichhardt Oval on Friday and it remains to be seen what impact the events of the week will have on the player himself, his teammates and the opposition.

The Tigers have won four of their last six after a dreadful seven-game losing streak, but it's a game the Warriors need to win after they were beaten 30-13 by the table-topping Rabbitohs, breaking their own five-game winning streak.

They head into the weekend's round in 11th, only two points out of the top eight with eight matches remaining, but there is a log-jam in the middle of the table with only four points separating fifth and 11th.

"I'm concerned about this game because of the distractions associated with the opposition," Elliott said. "Not only Benji but there are also a couple of guys playing [in the State of Origin decider] as well, so if you want to be distracted, the opportunity exists.

"We have to play better footy and we got a bit of a lesson in our last game. There were some good things we did, but I preferred the experience of five weeks before [when we were winning] than a couple of weeks ago."

The Warriors pushed the Rabbitohs and led 13-12 heading into the final 13 minutes of the game but conceded three late tries as the competition leaders found their stride.

Elliott yesterday named Manu Vatuvei in the starting side but the winger still needed to get through training before being confirmed to play. He missed the last game with a shin contusion and pulled out of Monday's training.

Prop Russell Packer was included in an extended seven-man bench but is struggling with a recurring hamstring strain and Charlie Gubb has an abdominal complaint and is a major doubt.

- APNZ

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