Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

League: Marshall fall guy for Dragons' struggles

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

The criticism being directed at Benji Marshall is unfair.

I have been less than complimentary of Benji at times through his career but I feel for him at the moment because he is the fall guy for the Dragons' woes.

They are dreadful, having scored only 40 points in six games. That's less than seven points a match and they've been kept scoreless in their last two outings.

Admittedly the second was against the table-topping Broncos but Brisbane should have scored a lot more than 26 points on Thursday night. What was telling was that Benji wasn't playing, so it can't be all his fault.

He's trying to be the sort of player I wanted him to become but he's being let down by his team-mates.

Where once he could rely on his pace and step, he can't do that any more so is looking to create things for others in the same way someone like Cooper Cronk does at the Storm.

He's steady, an organiser, and creates for others, not himself, but that's impossible for Benji to do at the moment because the Dragons aren't going forward and some pretty experienced players are making some very basic mistakes. There's no intensity or drive.

He's running across the field looking for options, which is what he should do, but it only works if a team is going forward and presents him with options. It's how Shaun Johnson plays at the Warriors but they are at least backing him up.

Benji has, unfortunately, worn the brunt of all the criticism for a dysfunctional team. I don't see his halves partner Gareth Widdop copping much. There must be something going on behind the scenes for them to be playing so badly because it's horrible to watch.

Benji is an easy target, because of the star he used to be. He also didn't help himself by laughing off the Dragons' offer of A$300,000 a season to stay at the club. No other club would be prepared to offer him that so it will be interesting to see where he ends up.

The criticism couldn't come at a worst time for Benji because most teams are in the middle of their recruitment and retention phase.

Someone might take him for $200,000-$250,000 but he would stand to earn a lot more in the UK Super League. He needs to have a serious look at himself because he could do a good job for a Super League team for the next two or three years and earn decent money just through his reputation.

He's not going to make it in rugby unless he goes somewhere like Japan but, even then, he needs to find some form.

Maybe he will opt to go into the media but I feel that will always be there for when he decides to retire and, at 31 and on the back of being runner-up in the Dally M Medal last year, he shouldn't feel he has to stop playing.

- Herald on Sunday

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