Benji Marshall will play his first game in a month on Friday against South Sydney, Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire has confirmed.
Maguire dropped Marshall after an upset loss to the Titans last month, despite the veteran playmaker sitting second in Dally M Medal voting.
The Kiwi legend was made an example of but will get the chance to reclaim his NRL spot against the Rabbitohs; albeit off the bench, with Josh Reynolds to start as five-eighth at Bankwest Stadium for the eighth-placed Tigers.
“You’ll see Benji Marshall and at some stage you’ll see Chrissy Lawrence,” Maguire told reporters on Thursday, with Lawrence also on the bench.
“Benji will be off the bench. He’s back, ready to go.
“He’s been working really hard at all the things we’ve spoken about and I’m looking forward to having him back.
“His presence around the team, and what he’s been doing in the background with the team, he’s just shown a real professional period in his career.
“I guess I expect that from Benji because I know him well and he’s been able to show that in my time since he’s been here.”
There were fears that Marshall’s Tigers career was about to come to a sad end, for the second time. Yet the veteran playmaker scoffed at calls for him to switch clubs and he is now back in the mix.
“He was obviously very happy [to be recalled],” Maguire said.
“He’s obviously a champion player, we know that. Competitors like Benji, they ride the wave with the game and obviously it was tough news to start with [being dropped] but he understood.
“Now he’s given himself another opportunity to build what we’re doing here at the club. Benji’s all about the Wests Tigers, we all know that and he’s been saying that for many years.”
Maguire said that Marshall would handle being thrown into a utility impact role, rather than starting the game. How many minutes the veteran plays will depend on the state of the game.
“Benji, as long as he’s involved, he’s happy,” Maguire said.
“I’ve got to say the last couple of weeks, the last three weeks, even when I told him [he was dropped], he’s always put the smile on his face.
“Even though it hurts, it’s part of what you want from your players. To be able to go through the ups and down of a player, it does hurt at times, but also too you take your lessons. That’s one thing that Benji’s done.
“Benji, when he has his moment in time to come on, he’s just got to kick on from where the team’s been building the game.”
Maguire said that Marshall had given a determined response to his recall when informed, with his team coming off a tight loss to high-flying Penrith. Wests Tigers are trying to earn their first finals appearance since 2011 and face a solid test from the ninth-placed Rabbitohs, who were preliminary finalists last year.
“Very focused around what he needs to do,” Maguire said of Marshall.
“I’ve got a group of men here very focused around what we need to do. We put ourselves in a great position to be able to get the win on the weekend [last round] against Penrith, but the dying moments just let us down.
“I keep chasing the 80 minutes [complete performance] and Benji’s another player within out team that’s focused on being able to achieve that. We want to get the wins up, so that’s what we’re looking for.”
Lawrence may help Michael Chee Kam cover the right centre position vacated by Joey Leilua, who was suspended for four weeks over his coat-hanger hit on Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards.