Benji Marshall joins Dragons with a point to prove

New recruit Benji Marshall is welcomed to the Dragons by coach Steve Price. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
New recruit Benji Marshall is welcomed to the Dragons by coach Steve Price. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


Lazy and too comfortable in his former NRL life, a rejuvenated Benji Marshall is convinced he has left a troubled finish to his Wests Tigers career behind him as he prepares for his rugby league second coming.

Moments after ending drawn-out negotiations  which sealed his return to the NRL with the Dragons, the 29-year-old said he’d rediscovered his spark for the game after a failed rugby union stint.

And he could make his Red V debut as soon as next weekend with coach Steve Price set to mull over parachuting the premiership winner straight into a mouth-watering halves combination with Gareth Widdop.

The Dragons will face the Eels at Pirtek Stadium next Saturday.

Marshall on Friday evening confirmed he had spurned interest from Cronulla to ink a 2-year deal with the Dragons.

He said he was prepared to do whatever it took to win over the confidence of his new teammates, whom he will train with for the first time on Tuesday.

‘‘I’ve definitely got a point to prove, not to everyone else but to myself,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘I left on a low and my form was terrible.

‘‘I guess that came down to attitude at the time. It was probably down to laziness and getting too comfortable. This move to the Dragons gets me out of my comfort zone.

‘‘Am I past my best? No. Is it going to take time? Probably. I feel I’ve got back the desire and ambition to be at my best.’’

Marshall had imposed a 5pm Friday deadline on the Dragons to table a formal offer after days of discussions with St George Illawarra top brass.

At 3.30pm his manager notified the Sharks he was accepting an offer from the Dragons.

The deal will keep Marshall in Wollongong until the end of 2016.

Dragons boss Peter Doust denied Marshall’s capture was a gamble despite his form dipping with the Tigers and his failure to make an impact on the 15-man game with the Auckland Blues.

‘‘We’re confident – absolutely confident – he’s going to deliver ... in his next career phase,’’ Doust said. ‘‘He doesn’t look too old to me and he sounds like a young person who’s enthusiastic about this opportunity.’’

Now the Dragons will be forced to juggle their roster for next season and beyond.

Halves Sam Williams and Michael Witt are both off contract at the end of the season and likely to be caught in the halfback squeeze with Marshall arriving. 

Utility Kyle Stanley’s deal also runs out at the end of this year.

But Marshall had the support of Dragons senior players when an opportunity came knocking, even though Price wouldn’t guarantee him a walk-up start in the top squad.

‘‘I’ve consulted a number of players in our playing group and not a lot is going to change,’’ Price said. ‘‘There’s no promises and we’ve got the right structures and systems in place and that will continue.’’

Marshall’s former club, Wests Tigers, are expected to seek compensation from the Dragons as he left the joint venture with two years to run on his deal. But it’s understood they don’t anticipate blocking his return to rugby league.

It is believed the Sharks offer was $100,000 less than what was on the table from the Dragons.


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