Super Rugby: Benji Marshall Signs With the Blues
by Brendan Bradford –
The worst kept secret in football was confirmed on Saturday morning with the Blues announcing they have signed Wests Tigers superstar Benji Marshall.
After weeks of speculation, Marshall announced he had signed a two-year deal with the Auckland-based Super Rugby side, ending his 11-year tenure at the Tigers at the conclusion of the NRL season.
Marshall officially announced the deal in a YouTube video released by the Blues this morning. The 28-year old admitted to a certain amount of sadness at leaving the Tigers, but a great hope in what the future holds.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that I’ll be joining the Auckland Blues next year for the next two seasons,” he said in the video.
“It’s been a sad time leaving the Tigers and on that note, I’d like to thank all my fans, not only from the Wests Tigers, but also from rugby league in general. All the support from the last 11-years playing in the NRL, I’ve made some great memories, made some great friends and it’s a time in my life I’ll never forget.
“To all you people back home who support the Blues and rugby union in general, I just want to say how happy and excited I am to come home – I haven’t lived in New Zealand for 13-years – so to get the chance to come back to my home country and where I was born and not only that, to be able to spend time with my family as well.”
Wearing a Blues jersey in the video, Marshall is already looking ahead to the Super Rugby season and higher honours.
“To all the fans, I’m just really looking forward to this opportunity to hopefully bring a title to the Blues and hopefully one day maybe represent the All Blacks, so to everyone out there, I’m really excited and I hope you are too. Can’t wait to see you next year.”
Marshall was a promising rugby union player in his teens, but focused on league after accepting a scholarship to Keebra Park State High School on the Gold Coast. Marshall made his NRL debut for the Tigers in 2003 at the age of 18, won a premiership in 2005 and has been entertaining crowds with an incredible arsenal of side-steps and flick passes ever since. One of the most popular players in the NRL, his signing is a coup for the Blues and rugby union.
Although Marshall has been down on form recently, Blues coach Sir John Kirwan is adamant he will be a success in the 15-man game.
“Benji has the ability to break open a game; he’s one of those players that does the right thing at the right time. He has great footwork and a good passing game so we can see those attributes really being beneficial to the Blues and to rugby union,” Kirwan said.
Questions still remain over what position he will play, with Kirwan telling the Triple M radio station in Sydney this morning that a flyhalf must stand a lot wider and flatter in union than in league and that Marshall will need to work on running straight and passing across the body. Kirwan mentioned either flyhalf or fullback, but didn’t rule out trying Marshall at inside centre.
The Tigers are currently 15th overall in the NRL after a 26-22 loss to last-placed Parramatta on Friday. Marshall will join a youthful Blues side that rebounded from a horror 2012 to finish 10th this year.