Marshall back in black again

IWI AGAIN: Wests Tigers NRL star Benji Marshall will don the Kiwi jersey again this Saturday. Photo NRL Action

SEVEN years after his last appearance in the Kiwi jersey, league star Benji Marshall has been named in the 19-strong Kiwi squad to play in the inaugural Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday.
Thirty-four-year-old Marshall joined the New Zealand team’s camp on Sunday.
His last appearance in the black and white jersey was in the end-of-season test against the Kangaroos in Townsville in 2012, a game where he was captain.
Marshall has played 27 tests for the Kiwis.
In January, he made a list of his goals for the next 12 months. To play for the Kiwis again was on that list, but he was still surprised when he received the call-up.
“I had to look in the mirror twice to be honest, because it’s been a long time obviously,” he told the NZ Herald.
“I wanted to play for the Kiwis over the years, but being hopeful and being realistic are two different things.
“But I was also thinking, if I push myself [towards that], that will translate to playing good footy. I really didn’t expect it.”
He said he was stunned early last week when his NRL side Wests Tigers head coach Michael Maguire called him into his office for a chat after Tigers’ training.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to play for the Kiwis again, but I never thought it would happen.
“I’ve always made myself available and would never say no to the black jersey. But I was just so proud of just being in the [wider] squad, just being among the 27.
“I preach to a lot of kids about setting goals that might seem like they are unachievable, but it doesn’t matter how far-fetched they might sound, if you set them, you give yourself a realistic chance of striving towards that.”
He said he “got teary” putting the Kiwi jersey back on after seven long years.
“It means a lot, it definitely does,” he said. “But seeing my family’s reaction to the news – first of all making the squad, but then now that I am playing – just the pride that it meant to them, it really hit home.”
A former student at Whakatane High School, Marshall was offered a scholarship to play for a high school in Gold Coast, Queensland when he was 16.
While attending Keebra Park State High School, he played for the Australian Schoolboys team in 2003, and also represented Australia in touch that same year.
He made his NRL debut in round 20 of the 2003 NRL season, playing for his current club, the Wests Tigers, against the Newcastle Knights, coming on as a replacement in the 14th minute as fullback. He continued to make appearances for Wests Tigers for the remainder of 2003, when his studies allowed, playing halfback.
Marshall was first selected for the Kiwis in 2005 to play in the Tri Nations tour, which was played in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Since that time he was a regular in the Kiwis squad until 2012.
Following a short stint playing rugby union for the Blues in 2014, Marshall went back to the NRL, this time with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
In 2017 he played for the Brisbane Broncos under a one-year deal before again signing with his old club the Tigers on a one-year contract, which was extended to include this year.