By PETER JESSUP
Peter John Marsh means business - he is determined to force his way into the New Zealand Warriors starting lineup.
He averaged half a game in each outing this year for the Parramatta Eels, coach Brian Smith using him as an impact player to run at tired big forwards late in the second quarter of each half.
But the new Warrior wants more of the action in Auckland.
He knows he will not get a run in the No 7 jersey unless Stacey Jones is injured, so he is taking aim at Motu Tony's No 6 spot.
Marsh, 21, is the first to admit that Tony was one of the form players for the Warriors this year and that it will not be easy to dislodge him.
Warriors coach Daniel Anderson - in his previous coaching role with Parramatta - chose Marsh as his halfback in the first division finals campaign for the winning Eels side in 1999, but he has made no promises.
Says Marsh: "He's offered me an opportunity and that's what I wanted.
"If I end up on the bench every week, so be it - anywhere in the 17 will be okay - but I came here to get more game time."
The Eels' decision to sign half Adam Dykes from the Sharks had no bearing on his move, he says.
He now feels comfortable on and off the field in Auckland.
Marsh says everyone, including Tony - who told coach Anderson that Marsh would make a good hooker - has made him welcome.
Still picking up on the Warriors style, Marsh says he is looking forward to the new season, "especially if I can play outside Stacey, get some room off the ruck."
He believes the Warriors will be competitive next year after the experience of reaching the finals, despite losing 56-12 to the Eels. In their round-robin games, the Eels won 30-24 in Sydney and the Warriors won 29-18 at Ericsson.
Marsh was brought up in Blackwater, a coalmining town in Queensland, in a family of two brothers and three sisters.
Mother Jackie and father Neville shortened his first names to the "P. J." by which he is now known. He is grateful for that, rather than having a nickname dreamed up by team-mates.
Marsh boarded at the Catholic St Brendan's College in Yeppoon.
He began his league playing days there as a half/five-eighth, graduating to the local competition where he filled in at fullback because of his small stature.
He is deceptively strong, despite weighing just 81kg. He has speed off the mark, timing and vision, and is no slouch on defence.
Winning the player of the year award at Rockhampton's Brothers club in the Queensland state league earned him a trip to the 1997 NRL grand final in Sydney. There he met former Kangaroo Noel Cleal, who offered him a trial game the next day. The Eels then signed him for 1998.
Marsh had 35 NRL games for the Eels, mainly off the bench, averaging 35 to 40 minutes a game this year.
His family were at first shocked by his decision to shift to Auckland, but have accepted it as a chance for him to advance his playing career.
"They've already bought the Warriors gear ... They're all supportive," he says.
Girlfriend Kelly has also made the transtasman shift and will study in Auckland, the couple settling in the eastern suburbs.
"I was nervous about it all - now I'm excited," says Marsh, who is on a two-year deal in Auckland.
* The Warriors yesterday completed negotiations with the Canberra Raiders to sign Sione Faumuina for three years.
The strapping 20-year-old centre/second-rower completes the Warriors' roster of 24 top-squad players.
Faumuina, who was signed by the Raiders from Wellington for two years, was homesick and asked for a release from Canberra.
By PETER JESSUP