Eighth Immortal Andrew Johns has emphatically declared that Benji Marhsall “has to be” in the Tigers’ starting line-up next week, after the veteran ignited Wests’ offence late in their 18-10 loss to South Sydney.
Marshall was recalled to the 17 in lieu of suspended enforcer Joey Leilua, having spent weeks on the sidelines after falling out of coach Michael Maguire’s vision for the squad.
Forced to start from the bench, Tigers fans were itching for the club favourite mid-way through the second-half as their side struggle to string any meaningful offence all game.
Sitting 18-0 down and with only 25-odd minutes left to play, Marshall was introduced into the game with immediate effect.
Within moments, the club veteran had his hand in a try and was at the centre of a mighty comeback that pushed Souths deep into the dying stages of the game, but was beaten by the clock.
It was a breath of fresh air that “opened up the shoulder” of the Tigers’ offence, and one that Johns argued Maguire could no longer afford to ignore in his rosters.
“Benji has to be there next week,” Johns declared at full-time. “He has to be in the six jersey.
“He had some beautiful touches didn’t he late in that game.”
Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers Round 9: Presser – Michael Maguire
Coach Maguire stressed Marshall’s late substitution was a planned strategy “to help us steer the back end of games”. A trait that was “lacking over the last couple of weeks, but it wasn’t to be.”
Fellow playmakers Harry Grant and Josh Reynolds satisfied across the board, but the same could not be said for Luke Brooks and Moses Mbye who, for all their minutes, struggled to impart themselves on the game.
Marshall’s guidance and deft passing had the NRL community singing the veteran’s praises, as they echoed Johns in calling for his immediate reinstatement.
The Tigers will face the Broncos at Leichhardt Oval next Friday night, and will desperately scrap to see themselves back into the NRL top eight.