Criticism galore has been leveled his way after some rather poor performances to start his St George Illawarra Dragons career but the big win against the Cronulla Sharks was a whole different story for five-eighth Benji Marshall.
The passes stuck, the plays came off, the running game was back and he was producing some form that you would expect of the Benji Marshall of old, leading the Dragons to a comfortable 30-0 shut-out win over the Sharks.
On a four-game slump, the win was a much needed one for the Dragons, with the win the first for Paul McGregor during his time as coach.
Some lovely cut-out balls by Marshall and crafty plays led to some great decision making on Marshall’s part and along with Josh Dugan, the two of them stole the show and led from the front.
Ask Marshall himself and he will tell you that his problem the last few weeks has been over-trying. The key to this great game, was simply relaxing and stripping his game back to the basics.
“I’m probably guilty of over-trying the last few weeks and trying to score off every play,” Marshall said.
“Tonight I just pulled it back. I played it a bit earlier and probably played a bit more inside myself and it worked out a bit better so I think I can learn a few things off tonight.”
As he readjusts to life in rugby league, Marshall admits there are areas of the rugby union side still a part of his game.
“It’s one thing thinking you can play how you play before but putting it out on the field when you haven’t had that feeling of the defensive line coming at you… I learnt in rugby I had to throw a lot of legs stuff away and play a lot earlier,” he said.
“I think the last couple of weeks I didn’t go into the line and didn’t threaten the line enough whereas tonight I tried to get tackled a bit and go into the line and commit people to me and it seemed to help.”
Patience is the key according to McGregor and as Marshall improves, he will give the star halfback as much time as he needs.
“Benji’s been showing a bit of class for a couple of weeks, but no one’s really seen it except the coach, the staff, and the players that play beside him and the way that we see him train,” he said.
For the Sharks, the past week and subsequent games have been tough for them to deal with in many ways. With 189 minutes of scoreless footy on their part, the team is struggling and with a host of first-grade players out, relying on untested youth is the direction they have to go in.
“I was talking to [coach Peter Sharp] today, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cronulla Sharks captain Wade Graham said.
“It’s like something happened every day. Even the game this week, we lost Bomber [John Morris] one day, the next day we lost Lewie [Luke Lewis], and then game day we find out Goisy’s [Isaac De Gois] going to Parra.
“Something happens every day in this joint. It’s a new experience. I’ve never been a part of something quite like this. So [we] just got to keep working through it and keep showing up to training.”
Come Rd 15, Sharks coach Peter Sharp is hopeful all of his key players will have returned to the side.
“We just want to be healthy. That’s been the sole goal for the last three weeks â€“ to get everybody as healthy as possible,” he said.
“And then, you know, let’s draw a line in the sand. Let’s try and play some positive, good footy in the last 12 or so weeks. We just need to be healthy and that’ll put everybody in a better frame of mind, won’t it mate?”
3. Benji Marshall
2. Josh Dugan
1. Ben Creagh