The future of Benji Marshall at the Wests Tigers continues to hinge around the possibility of an appearance in Japanese rugby union in 2010, as fellow players call for the club to give their star half plenty of freedom.
Wests hooker Robbie Farah was the most vocal, saying that the possibility of Marshall missing a Tigers pre-season and perhaps a handful of early season NRL matches wouldn’t hurt the club and will keep their main man happy.
“If it means keeping him, we’ve gotta be open-minded about it,” Farah confirmed.
Sources suggest a small stint of only 10 games could possibly net Marshall around $1million dollars for his time. However, the only major factor would be injury – with the Kiwi playmaker having a torrid time of things in his short career. Insurance concerns from his Wests Tigers owners would be the major hurdle, along with any injury obtained during a Japan stint also preventing him from fulfilling his full obligations to the new benefactors – essentially reducing his pay.
While keen to update Marshall’s contract, the Tigers remain in waiting until Benji decides and confirms his international options before the local NRL club make a final offer.
“At the moment his manager is negotiating with us as if there is virtually no proposal (from Japan),” coach Tim Sheens said.
“We’re in no hurry and neither are they.”
Benji and his management are aware that NRL rules prevent any player from taking part in any other competition while contracted; however there remains an outlet open to Marshall through creative paper shuffling – by letting his current agreement lapse and then not re-signing withÂ Wests until he finishes any obligation in Japan.
As an uncontracted player, Marshall is allowed to play anywhere outside of the NRL – this loophole could also allow him to get around opposition from within the Tigers club should it exist.
Apart from the injury worries, coach Sheens urged Marshall to consider the option long and hard – stating that the Japanese tournament holds many unknowns and for a player in a foreign country and code, it could prove risky.
Tigers chief executive Scott Longmuir indicated he would be willing to explore all possibilities to keep Marshall, with a view to pairing him with former Canberra half-back Todd Carney in 2010.