Rugby league star Benji Marshall has today announced he will be moving back to New Zealand to play rugby for the Blues. Marshall has signed a two year deal to play for the Blues franchise in the Super Rugby competition for 2014/15 and will be crossing the ditch within weeks.
The 28-year old said he was excited by the prospect of playing rugby under the tutelage of Sir John Kirwan and his coaching team.
“Based on what JK has told me about the winning culture the Blues are working to create and where he sees my part in that, I’m really looking forward to this next stage of my sporting career.”
After eleven years with the West Tigers, Marshall recently announced his desire to again play rugby union and Blues Head coach Sir John Kirwan is very pleased with his latest recruit.
“I’m really excited. It has been bit of a process because it’s obviously a big decision for Benji but he’s really excited about the challenge and we’re thrilled to have someone with his professionalism and ability in the organisation. I think it’s going to be a great journey for us all,” Kirwan said.
“Benji has the ability to break open a game; he’s one of those players that does the right thing at the right time. He has great footwork and a good passing game so we can see those attributes really being beneficial to the Blues and to rugby union.”
Discussions have been in progress for some time between the Blues and Marshall amidst intense speculation on both sides of the Tasman. A recent visit to Auckland for Benji and his wife Zoe was an important part of the decision-making process.
“It was important for us to see for ourselves the area, the facilities and what was in store should we move to Auckland. As a New Zealander, it’s pretty special to be able to live back here with my wife.”
Born in Whakatane in the eastern Bay of Plenty, Marshall moved to Australia at the age of 15 to take up a rugby league scholarship at Keebra Park State High School on the Gold Coast.
He made his first class debut for the Tigers against the Newcastle Knights in 2003 and has gone on to play 196 games for the club. He has also played 27 Tests for the New Zealand Kiwis, captaining the side from 2009-2012.
While Marshall last played rugby as an Under 16 New Zealand school boy representative, 13 years later he admits he’s looking forward to the code change and opportunity to have a crack at a new challenge.
However exactly what position he is destined for will be a work in progress as Kirwan will reserve his decision on where Marshall will slot into the Blues backline.
“I’ve always said I’m not going to put any pressure on that, obviously he’s a talented player so perhaps 15, 12 or 10 but we don’t really know yet, we’re leaning towards 15 but we’ll just have to wait until he joins the team for pre-season training and see how it goes.”
Blues CEO Andy Dalton said Marshall's impressive sporting career and stellar reputation makes him an exciting prospect for all sports fans in the Blues region and across the country.
"This has the makings of a fantastic partnership with reward for Benji, the Blues, our fans and stakeholders. Benji is hugely popular and respected in both countries, in both codes and we are confident he will bring that professionalism and ability he is renowned for to our organisation."
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew welcomes Marshall’s return to rugby.
“We’re really pleased a player of Benji’s quality has decided to return to rugby and find a new home with the Blues. He has the x factor that excites fans so I am sure he will add much to the Blues, as well as being the sort of player that will inspire younger players.”
Marshall will move to New Zealand in September.