Wests Tigers great Benji Marshall has revealed how he was resigned to giving the game away over a decade ago as he prepares to celebrate his NRL 300-game milestone.
The Kiwi playmaker will go down in the joint venture’s history books as one of their all-time greats.
He has a claim to being one of the modern era’s most influential players after inspiring a generation of kids to practice his trademark sidestep in parks and backyards on both sides of the Tasman.
But Marshall, who joins the illustrious 300 club against Parramatta on Sunday, said it all almost never happened and how at 22-years-old a fifth shoulder operation left him questioning whether he could withstand the rigours of the NRL.
“At the end of 2007 after my last operation I went back to New Zealand and decided I was going to give it away,” Marshall said.
“My dad actually talked me out of it. I don’t usually give up like that and it got to the stage where it was that hard.
“He said ‘go back, give it one more shot and if it happens again then you can quit but I’m not going to let you quit now’.
“Looking back it’s the best thing I ever did.”
Marshall’s career has been one of resilience and reinvention, having pushed through more than his fair share of major injuries and being forced to evolve as a playmaker as father time caught up with him.
“When you come to terms with age slapping you in the face a bit, you get slower, your body changes a bit and you don’t recover as fast as you used to,” Marshall said.
“I feel like I’m contributing to games more than I was when I was younger.
“I used to do all the flashy exotic stuff but that could win or lose the game. Whereas the way I play now, it’s about controlling the game rather than scoring on every play.”
Marshall faced a turning point in 2014 when he asked for a release from the Tigers after struggling for form and defected to rugby union with Super Rugby club the Blues.
While his stint in the 15-man code was short-lived and he returned to the NRL via St George Illawarra just six months later, he says it’s an experience which helped him turn a corner.
“It was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Marshall said.
“It got me out of my comfort zone and I had to wake up to myself a bit.
“That didn’t work out how I wanted it to work out.
“The ups and downs, the adversity, without going through that, I don’t think I am the person I am today.”
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