Benji Marshall happy to step back

St George Illawarra player Gareth Widdop talks with coach Paul McGregor and Benji Marshall at training. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
St George Illawarra player Gareth Widdop talks with coach Paul McGregor and Benji Marshall at training. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


Not since he played with Scott Prince almost a decade ago has Benji Marshall felt as free and relaxed on a football field as he does with Gareth Widdop.

He's played alongside 18 different halves partners in his career and has struggled to find the perfect foil for his off-the-cuff style of play, but Marshall insists he's finally found a playmaker that suits his game.

"Playing with Scott Prince was probably the easiest few years of my life because he controlled everything and just gave me the ball when I called it," Marshall said.

"Sometimes I didn't have to call it, he just knew when I wanted it, and that's what I've got here with Gareth. It's not a matter of having to say anything, it's just a wink and a nod to each other. I can tell when he wants the ball, I can't understand his English anyway."

Among the 18 different halves partners Marshall has been through is Keiran Kerr, Blake Lazarus, Jacob Miller and Tom Humble.

While those players haven't gone on to bigger and brighter things, Marshall took some responsibility for their inability to find their feet alongside him.

"For those kids, it was probably more my fault because I'd try and take on too much and overplay too much," Marshall said.

"Chilling out a bit now and taking the ball when I need to. Don't get me wrong, in big moments in games I still want the ball but if it's not on for me I'm happy for Gareth to call it and take it and he's the player who would.

"There have been games when Gareth's been on fire and I let him take the ball all the time. When he's hot, just let him have it, and the same goes for me if I've got the hot hand. I started to get there a little with Rob Lui. We started to build a good combination and had a bit of success in the semis then we lost him."

When Marshall returned to rugby league from a brief stint in rugby union, he took a few games to find his rhythm.

He admits he was guilty of trying to do too much.

"Absolutely, it was over the top," Marshall said.

"I think one game I had 78 touches and he had 30 something, whereas now we get 50-50. Just sharing up that workload a bit, and attacking both sides.

"In the past I probably tried to be in control of everything. Now we have this thing where Gareth and I try and get an even share of possession and share the workload of being in control. Gareth is a player you have to defend, so if they put too many defenders on his side, I'll take the ball and vice versa."

Marshall was the face of the Wests Tigers before leaving to play Super Rugby with the Auckland Blues.

The former Kiwi skipper believes he overloaded himself with too many responsibilities.

"It was hard to take a back seat because I didn't have anyone stepping up to run the show. I probably did what other people wanted too much and made decisions based on what I thought would make other people happy instead of myself. Now I do what's beneficial for me."


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