Imagine buying a late model Ferrari only to have it sit idle with mechanical problems 3 weeks in every 4? Spare a thought for Tim Sheens and the Wests Tigers, as this is the situation they face with superstar Benji Marshall. They have the talented Marshall in their ranks, yet are rarely able to utilize him.
Everyone knows what Benji is capable of in attack, the fleet footed half has the best step in the game and his creativity naturally gives the Tigers the edge in many situations. Wests have been extremely patient with the young star, after taking the Tigers to NRL Premiership Glory in 2005 – injuries saw the playmaker register only 25 games in 2 long years.
When it was contract renewal time, Marshall was originally looking at throwing himself on the open market and seeing if he could fetch the high dollar. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and the Kiwi star agreed to terms with the Tigers – the agreement probably saving Benji’s career at this stage as once again he is spending the majority of his time on the sidelines.
After making a comeback this week against the Cronulla Sharks, it was hoped Benji Marshall would gain some match fitness, confidence and some strength in his problematic knee. It seems coach Tim Sheens could probably become a doctor after he retires from NRL coaching, such is talk and discussion around Benji and his injuries. In almost every press conference, Sheens must have flashbacks to his days as Brad Clyde’s mentor – as he gives excuses as to why the frail Benji Marshall continues to break down and how long the estimated recovery time is.
Marshall pulled up sore from the Sharks game and will now miss this weeks clash with the Broncos, the Centenary Test and fortunately the Tigers have the bye following this week – meaning additional recovery time.
Such is the Tigers luck, as they unearth a player with similar talent and strike power to Benji – Robbie Farah, he too is struck down with on-going injury problems. Fortunately, Tim Sheens and the Wests Tigers scouts are consistently recruit ing and promoting well. With the continued rise of Wests junior Chris Lawrence ensuring the Tigers have a strong attacking weapon on the edge and the fact that Matt Head was added to the books in the off-season proves how the joint venture club is covering all bases these days.
But imagine how much more intimidating the Wests Tigers look with Benji Marshall consistently in their line-up? After more hiccups, it is beginning to look more and more unlikely the star could ever regain his appearance consistency. Spare a thought for the accountants at Wests Tigers, they must get heart palpitations every time they look at how much Marshall takes up under the salary cap.
The devastated Marshall had to convey the latest injury problem to Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney after doctors confirmed torn scar tissue around his injured left knee today.
“Knowing that this Test match was coming up he sort of gave himself an opportunity of playing at the weekend after five or six weeks out, and things didn’t go as well as he thought. Kearney said.
Marshall’s absence not only reduces the Kiwi’s strike power, but it also takes away the pulling power of the much hyped Centenary Test Match.
It will also raise fears the SCG clash could be another massacre similar to Australia’s 58-0 mauling of the Kiwis last October.
Kearney, though, insists his side will be competitive, despite Marshall’s omission following injuries to Krisnan Inu and Manu Vatuvei and doubts over the availability of English-based pair Brent Webb and Thomas Leuluai.
“From our perspective, all we can do as a coaching and management staff is provide the team with the right information and what we think is going to make us competitive against Australia,” Kearney said.
“All I can ask for the players is that they perform as good as they can, and if they do that I certainly think we’ve got the personnel to be competitive.”
While Bulldogs pivot Ben Roberts would appear to have the inside running on the No.6 jersey, Kearney said the Kiwis had a few options – although not “a heap”.
“There’s a couple of options we have, Thomas Leuluai from Wigan in the Super League, and then Benny Roberts, he’s playing well at the moment … we’ve got a couple of options, not a heap but a couple.
“But I’m super confident whoever wears the No.6 jumper will certainly play with a lot of intent and the right attitude.”
After missing five weeks since injuring his knee in round one, Marshall is now not expected to return to action until the Tigers’ round 10 clash with Newcastle on May 18.
The club plays Brisbane this weekend and have the bye the following week.
“Benji has seen the doctor and he’s torn some scar tissue which has leaked a little bit of fluid so he’s been needled and he can’t do anything until Friday,” said Tigers assistant coach Royce Simmons.
“It’s only a very minor thing; we don’t want to make a big deal out of it.
“The doctor said he needed another week off, it was only scar tissue which caused a bit of fluid to get under the knee.
“There’s still a lot of rounds to go.
“Benji could play this week, without any doubt, but at the end of the day it’s a long way to go.
“We’re in the Melbourne Cup, not the Golden Slipper, we tend to make sure he comes back 100 per cent.”
Marshall has long said he would rule himself out of the Test if he didn’t feel up to the task after admitting he came back too soon from a shoulder injury to play in last year’s Anzac Test.
In terms of his national aspirations, he will now target the end of year World Cup.
With Marshall’s availability settled, the biggest question around the Kiwis team announcement will likely centre on whether Webb and Leuluai will be included.
Both players are believed to be facing resistance in gaining a release from their Super League clubs, with Leeds wanting Webb for their Challenge Cup match against Harlequins on May 10, and Wigan wanting Leuluai to stay and prepare for their match against Warrington on May 16.