The off-season can be a frustrating time for sports fans, no live games to watch (unless you want to try and live stream a 2017 Rugby League World Cup Qualifier), lots of rumours in the media but little to talk about that is real. The 2016 off season will be remembered for one of the most surprising moves in recent years – Benji Marshall to the Brisbane Broncos. The question everyone is asking is why?
For Benji the answer is simple – so that he can finish his career on his own terms, he felt he had another season in him but St George were telling him that it was time to retire. Now he gets to make that decision for himself. And in a town that attracts a large Kiwi support base and with a few of his test team mates around him, it has the potential to be a fairy tale finish.
The more puzzling question is why do the Broncos want Benji? Let us consider the scenarios:
- To play 6 or 7? No. Hunt and Milford are the kind of dynamic young duo that you build a dynasty around. Barring injury, it is inconceivable that Benji unseats the Broncos halves.
- Off the bench? Maybe, but what utility value does he offer? Sure he could cover Andrew McCullough, as Travis Waddell did occasionally last year, but McCullough is an Origin quality player who could play eighty minutes if asked. It has been suggested that, during the game, you could move McCullough to lock to bring Marshall off the bench. However why would you weaken both hooker and lock just to give Benji game time?
- Taking Jack Reed’s spot? I have heard some players suggesting that Benji would make a gun centre. Perhaps he would, he certainly has the vision, hands and running game, but can he defend and at 31 is it too late to learn a new position at the top level?The Broncos survived most of last season without Jack Reed and have recruited a potential replacement in Townsville Blackhawks firebrand Mosese Pangai. They would surely also look to the next generation, players like Opacic, Pearson, Marion Seve from Souths Logan and a number of other young players they have rather than at a 31 year old?
- A Mentoring role? This is the only suggestion that makes any sense to me. I believe Hunt and Milford are the future of the Broncos and are a good chance to deliver Bennett that last premiership he craves before he retires. However they looked shaky at times in 2016 and there was no denying that in the middle of the season the attack looked flat and they seemed to lack ideas of how to spark anything. Having Benji around them at training during the week and in the sheds at halftime can only help. He is a Premiership winner and a World Cup winner with a wealth of knowledge to share.
When he is not needed with the Broncos he will be a welcome addition at the Redcliffe Dolphins (the Broncos have not announced which club he will be affiliated too but my money is on Redcliffe) who need a replacement for Penrith bound Darren Nicholls and will be looking to go one step further in 2017 after being thumped by Burleigh is this year’s Intrust Super Cup Grand Final.