Blues 'in the mix' to land Benji
July 16, 2013
Benji Marshall has spoken directly with Blues coach John Kirwan © Getty Images
Blues coach John Kirwan is confident the Auckland franchise is "in the mix" to secure Benji Marshall's services for the 2014 Super Rugby season.
Kirwan confirmed he had spoken directly to the Wests Tigers star, who on Monday stunned the rugby league community by revealing he would seek a release from the remaining two years on his contract.
Despite reports the 28-year-old is set to join former league star Israel Folau at the New South Wales Waratahs, Kirwan believes Marshall has yet to make a decision and expects his answer next week.
"I've spoken to his manager and I think we're part of what he's thinking about moving forward," Kirwan said. "We're in the mix, I'm sure. I've spoken to him [Marshall] and we've just got to get through this week."
Reported to be earning around $500,000 at the Wests Tigers, the Blues can't offer Marshall a similar salary but a "commercial package" will be put together if the New Zealand Rugby Union gets involved. That will only happen once Marshall signals his intentions to join the Blues.
"I just think he's at a stage in his life where he's a very loyal man to what he's been doing with the Tigers and he's ready for a new challenge in his life," Kirwan said. "We've just spoken about rugby and the challenges that it will bring. It was just a general conversation. He's going to have to take a pay cut to come to rugby and that's one of the decisions he'll have to make."
Marshall stated he would not play for another NRL club, leaving the UK Super League, Super Rugby and French and Japanese club competitions as his other options. The lure of an Olympic Sevens Gold medal is thought to be a major draw card for the Whakatane-born Marshall to return home but Kirwan refused to reveal whether it was spoken about during their conversation.
"It was a fantastic conversation. He was excited about the next stage of his professional career," Kirwan added. "It didn't get down to whether we were a part of his mix, it was just a one-off and I just wanted to talk to him about what he was thinking moving forward. I got out of that conversation that he is genuinely thinking about changes in his life. What that looks like? I think he is still to make those decisions. I'm putting everything off until next week."
After 11 years at the Tigers Marshall has become increasingly disillusioned at the club after they refused to honour a handshake deal that would have seen his contract extended to the end of 2017. His agent Martin Tauber confirmed Marshall will play the rest of the NRL season with the Tigers, with his last game likely to be against the Cowboys on September 7.
A move to Japan would see him miss the World Cup in October, while Super Rugby does not start until next year. Marshall has been out of form in recent matches and looks a shadow of the player he was when he helped the Kiwis to their first World Cup title in 2008.
He also starred for the Tigers in 2005 when the club secured its maiden NRL premiership.