Let's hope Benji Marshall gets the Kiwis farewell he deserves.

It probably won't happen next week against Tonga, even though Marshall has been named in the wider New Zealand squad for that game.

Incumbent halves Shaun Johnson and Kodi Nikorima will be the first option for coach Michael Maguire, and the likes of Jahrome Hughes appeals as spine cover off the bench if Maguire decides to go that way.

It also depends on the fitness of Johnson, as Thursday's night's match against the Raiders was his first NRL outing since a hamstring injury in round seven.


But it would be great to see Marshall in the black and white V once more, and there are three more Kiwis tests after the Tonga match this year.

With 296 NRL games behind him, Marshall offers experience and leadership, an expert kicking game and the flair for the unexpected.

He's certainly good enough to play a role, and it would be a nice way to round out his international career, though there is no room for sentiment with such decisions.

It's hard to believe that Marshall hasn't played for the Kiwis since October 2012, through a combination of poor form, circumstances and bad luck.

It was a seismic shock with Marshall was dropped for the 2013 Anzac test by then Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney.

Kearney was determined to drive a culture change, and felt the presence of Marshall, whose stardom could often overshadow the team, would inhibit building that.

He was the face of the team, especially in the eyes of the Sydney media, but could be difficult in his latter years as Kiwis captain.

That was shown at the 2012 Anzac test at Eden Park, when Marshall didn't front at the joint captain's press conference, instead sending Simon Mannering.


Marshall's ill fated switch to the Blues took him out of the equation, and by the time he had returned Kearney had definitely moved on.

That was most obvious on the 2015 Kiwis tour, when, in the absence of Johnson and Kieran Foran, the coach turned to Peta Hiku and Tui Lolohea as his halves combination, instead of recalling the Whakatane product.

Marshall's form hasn't always been compelling in the intervening years, but he has enjoyed a renaissance over the last 18 months.

He was close to being picked for the touring party to England last year, but pulled out due to a calf injury.

But the fire remains strong.

"The one thing I will never say is no to a Kiwis jumper," Marshall told the Herald last month.
"I'll always be available, no matter what. At the same time I'm aware there is a World Cup coming up and a lot of combinations we need to get right and decide who is going to lead us into that World Cup. I don't expect Madge (Michael Maguire) to pick me…but if he needs me to play, I've course I will."

Marshall's Kiwis legacy will never be forgotten. Not just for his deeds in the 2008 World Cup final and 2010 Four Nations decider, but also for his staunch patriotism at a time when not every New Zealand-born player espoused the same view.

Aside from the inclusion of veterans Benji Marshall and Kieran Foran, there was plenty to catch the eye in the wider Kiwis squad named on Thursday night.

Briton Nikora's outstanding rookie season at the Sharks has been acknowledged, while the form of Hughes and Brandon Smith at the Storm will be hard to ignore.

Agnatius Paasi has plumped for the Kiwis over Tonga — at this stage — while skipper Dallin Watene Zelezniak remains in the frame at this stage, despite his struggles this season.

Marty Taupau's late switch, which he announced on Friday, to play for Samoa was unfortunate, but the Kiwis aren't short of options at prop.

Leeson Ah Mau (Warriors)
Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)
Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm)
Kenneath Bromwich (Melbourne Storm)
James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers)
Kieran Foran (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)
Jahrome Hughes (Melbourne Storm)
Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos)
Shaun Johnson (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
Isaac Liu (Sydney Roosters)
Issac Luke (Warriors)
Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters)
Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers)
Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers)
Ken Maumalo (Warriors)
Briton Nikora (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
Kodi Nikorima (Warriors)
Agnatius Paasi (Warriors)
Isaiah Papali'i (Warriors)
Jordan Rapana (Canberra Raiders)
Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm)
Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders)
Martin Taupau (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)
Zane Tetevano (Sydney Roosters)
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors)
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)