Is Benji Marshall about to play his last game of league?

Benji Marshall and his Dragons are tomorrow wearing purple socks to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer. Photo / Getty Images.
Benji Marshall and his Dragons are tomorrow wearing purple socks to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer. Photo / Getty Images.

Is Benji Marshall about to play his last meaningful game of rugby league?

The former sat Kiwi halfback runs out for the St George Illawarra Dragons against Newcastle tomorrow in the last round of this year's NRL round robin premiership.

With the Dragons out of the running for a finals position and Marshall turning down the club's offer of one-year extension, the mercurial 31-year-old will step into limbo-land come the final whistle.

If it ends up being his NRL swansong, it will be a disappointing end to a ...-year career.
Understanding that, yes, Marshall will always be defined by the Benji Step. And that premiership flick.

But what Ruben Wiki remembers is New Zealand's team circle before their 2008 World Cup campaign when Marshall, for no reason other than it being true, outed his own defence as their big liability.

And so Wiki rose and, looking around, declared that for every day until this thing was done, training would conclude with all Kiwi forwards running full tilt at their 23-year-old playmaker. Twice.

No session complete, he growled, until Marshall made every tackle.

Which is why on finals morning, when Australian newspapers screamed headlines about the Kangaroos 'Bash Benji' blueprint, those same Kiwis laughed.

Then went out and won.

For if you really want to unmask the Marshall Magic Show, ask how he initially survived the NRL at 76 kilos. Or overcame five shoulder reconstructions.

A feat which, as his long-time club coach Tim Sheens once claimed, makes the Dragons No. 7 the toughest footballer he ever coached.

"Really?" Marshall laughs now, seven years on. "I'm a guy who cries at stories on A Current Affair.

"But while no one gets to write their own script in rugby league, yeah, I've never backed down from a challenge, either."

St George offered Marshall a one-year contract worth $A300,000 but the veteran wants more and believes he can play another three years in the NRL.

"I'm a big believer in self worth, in knowing what you're worth. And I believe I'm worth more than that offer," Marshall told Sydney's Daily Telegraph as he prepared for his St George Illawarra farewell.

"To put things in perspective, there are teenage halves out there right now, guys who haven't played any NRL yet, getting paid A$300,000. I've played 14 seasons and know that, if injury free, I'll offer a lot more. On the field and off it. So yes, A$300,000 [NZ$310,000] was thrown onto the table which I declined."

Marshall has been ringing various NRL club chief executives to let them know he still wants to go around next year. He is reluctant to chase a playing contract in England due to wanting to remain living in Australia.

- news.com.au

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