After a really positive start to the season, the Dragons have begun to look a bit flat. Now I didn’t expect too much from them this season so I can’t say I’m surprised. It is for this reason that I believe that Benji Marshall will be an astute signing for the Red V and give them hope of finishing in the top half of the table. Yes I know Benji’s form last season left a lot to be desired but I think his style of play will fit the teams dynamic.
Benji is one of those players who provides an X factor. He can come up with an unbelievable play just when his team needs it. On the other hand he is known to drift in and out of games. He works best when partnered with a half that is good at organising the team, like Scott Prince. This is exactly what Gareth Widdop provides. In contrast to the left side half and right side half strategy that many teams employ I envisage Gareth and Benji both roaming to either side in a more traditional first and second receiver way. Gareth can give the side structure while Benji can look to create those big plays when his team needs them. It is for the same reason that I didn’t see Benji being a success at the sharks. Todd Carney is too similar a player to Marshall and I think they would’ve gotten in each other’s way. Jeff Robson provides a much better foil for Carney.
In terms of jersey numbers I would play Benji in his favourite number six and move Widdop to seven. I know it is much of a muchness in today’s game but psychologically I think Benji will be able to play his best with six on his back. Whenever handed the seven jersey at the Tigers Benji’s form seemed to drop, I don’t think Widdop would have an issue changing either. He played halfback for Melbourne during origin affected rounds in previous years and led his team well.
Of course the Dragons fortunes in 2014 hinge on more then just how Benji plays. They have good strike weapons in the outside backs with Dugan and Morris but there pack is one of the weaker ones in the comp. Your team doesn’t stand a chance if your pack gets dominated as we saw in the Dragons loss to the Bulldogs last weekend. Trent Merrin is the star of the pack so he needs to lead from the front in order to get the backs into attacking field position.
There is also the issue of the $150,000 transfer fee that the Tigers are demanding but all reports indicate that this will be settled soon. If it isn’t could this possibly be the first scenario of Dave Smith dipping into the marquee player slush fund?
On a final note regarding Benji I have to mention the mock tweet that sportsbet posted on their twitter account. Setting up Benji’s old super rugby club, sportsbet suggested that the Auckland Blues had posted a tweet saying “hey @nrl_dragons , no returns”. The Blues weren’t happy about this after receiving some criticism from various Benji lovers. I on the other hand got a good laugh out of it. I guess only time will tell on if Benji is a success or if he really is past his best but I’m hoping we see some good footy out of him.
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