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Benji Marshall as coach

(@helmesy)
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Benji Marshall has vowed to put some pride back in the Wests Tigers jersey and protect his players from the boardroom turmoil at the club as he prepares to kick off his first pre-season as head coach.

Marshall, arguably the greatest player in Wests Tigers history, will welcome his players back to the club’s Concord headquarters on Monday morning with a sense of optimism in the air.

In this first interview since taking over from Tim Sheens as head coach, Marshall spoke about his belief in his own ability, his plans to strengthen his squad and his pledge to get the best out of young halves Jayden Sullivan and Latu Fainu.

“It is funny – I get so many people say to me, ‘Why are you doing this?’” Marshall said.

“The thing that I love about it – and you can’t recreate it – is it gives you a purpose. Most coaches will tell you the same thing.

“It has nothing to do with money. The purpose of coaching and the feeling you get from coaching men to be better people and players, that is what it is about for me.”

Benji Marshall feels a higher purpose when coaching. Picture: Izhar Khan/Getty Images
Benji Marshall feels a higher purpose when coaching. Picture: Izhar Khan/Getty Images
It is also about winning, and few people in rugby league are as familiar with the concept as Marshall. He overcame multiple shoulder reconstructions to forge a remarkable career, winning a premiership with the Tigers in 2005 and a World Cup with New Zealand three years later.

When his glittering career came to an end, he was on his way to becoming a star on Fox League until the Tigers came calling.

When Marshall commits himself to something, he knows only success – he plays golf off a handicap of five, although he concedes that may suffer as he throws himself into turning the Tigers around.

“This is how I have always been throughout my career – every time I see something that looks like a massive challenge, I feel like I grow an extra leg and attack it more,” Marshall says as he sits in a cafe a stone’s throw from the club’s Centre of Excellence.

“I know the pressure that comes with it and I know how hard it is going to be. For me, to be able to do it now at the Tigers – a club that means so much to me – I think it is perfect.”

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THE TIGERS’ BATTLES
It has been more than a decade since the Tigers played finals football and their woes continued last season – Marshall’s first on the coaching staff – as they finished in 17th spot.

The club has been mired in mediocrity for longer than most care to remember and Marshall refuses to put a ceiling on what they can do in 2023.

He won’t talk about making the top eight or playing finals football. Nor will his players. Actions will speak louder than words and Marshall’s only non-negotiable will be commitment and dedication.

If you work hard, the results will come.

“The classic line people say is: The only way is up from where you are,” Marshall says.

“The thing I am not going to do is come out and say we want to finish here, we want to finish there. I will be upfront – it is going to be a process-driven way we play and coach.

“The outcomes will take care of themselves. I am not going to let the team talk about making the top eight, top four. We have to literally start from the bottom again, that is it.”

The Tigers had one of their most challenging seasons ever in 2023. Picture: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images
The Tigers had one of their most challenging seasons ever in 2023. Picture: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images
Giving supporters a reason to believe will be a priority.

“I just want to restore some pride in our jersey,” Marshall said.

“A lot of people will say they want to see their team compete every week. If they are having a go and you can see it on the field they are happy with that.

“I think that is bullshit to be honest. Everyone wants results.

“But what they will get is a team that is going to be working really hard in the pre-season – harder than they have ever worked – the right way though.

“We will have a team that has a good bond, trust and connection. I reckon trust and connection is a big part of having success. A team that is resilient.”

RECRUITMENT
One of Marshall’s great frustrations has been the Tigers’ ability to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to strengthening their roster.

Time and again they have approached players only for the news to leak and the deal to fall over. Marshall wants it to stop.

The latest name linked with the club is Penrith star Jarome Luai, who is off contract in 12 months and open to offers. The Tigers invested in young halves Jayden Sullivan and Latu Fainu last year and Marshall has big plans for the pair.

However, he also concedes the Tigers would be off the pace if they weren’t in the market for star signings.

“The amount of money he (Luai) is going to command is going to be quite big,” Marshall said.

Half Aidan Sezer is one of the club’s recruits for 2024. Picture: Mark Nolan/Getty Images
Half Aidan Sezer is one of the club’s recruits for 2024. Picture: Mark Nolan/Getty Images
“He has earned that. But whenever a marquee player comes up you do have to have a look at them and whether you can afford them.

“The positive thing for us is we have signed three really good young halves too – Jayden Sullivan, Latu Fainu and also Lachie Galvin who no one has really talked about.

“He was the best schoolboy in the comp last year. You don’t shut the door on anyone. The process is to have a look. Does he fit into what we need? If he does, go and have a crack.”

The club has also been linked with Melbourne centre Justin Olam as part of a potential swap deal involving Shawn Blore.

“We need outside backs – we are a bit light on,” Marshall said.

“He is definitely someone who fits the mould – left centre, plays tough, really good talker in defence. Definitely be interested in having a look at him.

“At the same time we don’t have him at the moment so I have to do the right things by the guys we do have.”

THE HALVES
Marshall was one of the greatest halves in the game’s history and he is hoping that Midas touch can have the right impact on young halves Sullivan and Fainu.

The Tigers bought both last year with a view to the future.

Veteran Aidan Sezer was also brought in to help nurture the pair through next season but Marshall will throw the competition open.

If Sullivan and Fainu own the pre-season, they will start in round one.

“I have been working on their mindset a little bit, the way they think about footy,” Marshall said.

“As a coach I feel like my job is to take the pressure off them, not heap it on. So I am just trying to clear the way they think, give them confidence to back the way they play and use their strengths in our game plan.

“I said to all of them the same thing – you are not guaranteed to start, you have to earn it and if you earn it in the pre-season, I don’t care how old you are, you will start.

“I don’t want to create an environment where you just come in and think you play. It doesn’t work like that. They are on board.

Marshall is one of the most electric halves in rugby league history. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Marshall is one of the most electric halves in rugby league history. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
“With all of them, they know my requirements of a half is you have to be the fittest in the team because what I am going to require out of you and the way we play, if you are not you won’t be able to handle it.

“They are all on board with it. They were good. They all have things I like about them and the way they play. They (Sullivan and Fainu) have a bit of swagger, a bit of cockiness which you have to have as a half.

“Then we have signed Aidan Sezer as a bit of a foil and a bit of a mentor who has experience if we need that.”

BOARDROOM BATTLES
The Tigers are in the midst of an external review of their governance model and Marshall was among the club officials who was interviewed as part of the process.

He insists he has no desire to get dragged into boardroom politics. Nor does he want his players to use the battles off the field as an excuse for any struggles on it.

“This is the part that people don’t get – I am paid to coach,” Marshall says.

“I am not paid to make decisions on the business. That is not for me. Sometimes it is frustrating that it is out there.

“I have to make sure it is clear with the players that we are separating whatever is happening- that doesn’t influence who we train or how we prepare or how we play.

“I am not going to be a coach who allows that to be an excuse. I know this as a player – the way you prepare, the way you train, the way you go out on the field.

“That is all up to you. I don’t believe that affects the team and I am not going to let it be an excuse. There are no excuses.”

Lee Hagipantelis and Tigers’ CEO Justin Pascoe are facing an uphill battle. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Lee Hagipantelis and Tigers’ CEO Justin Pascoe are facing an uphill battle. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Marshall does, however, feel for chair Lee Hagipantelis and chief executive Justin Pascoe, whose positions at the club are believed to be in jeopardy.

“I don’t have an agenda,” Marshall said.

“One thing will say with Justin and Lee in particular, I think they do get a bad rap sometimes. I didn’t see this when I was playing but working with them now, they actually have genuine care and want the club to be better.

“Lee chips in x amount of his own money and has a genuine care for the club. I have seen it first hand. He cops quite a lot of flak.

“Justin the same. That bloke works a lot. I am on the phone to him a lot of the time and he is working 24-7 to turn the club around.

“So their work ethic and commitment to the club, I like working with them. I do. But when it comes to who runs and the club and all those things, it had nothing to do with me.”

THE FUTURE
Marshall may not be willing to make a prediction about where his team will finish next season but he insists that the Tigers will fight to the end.

He believes he has surrounded himself with the right people – John Morris has joined Robbie Farah and Chris Heighington on the coaching staff – and he will give them the power to do what it takes, which will in turn free him to concentrate on what he does best.

“I always back myself,” Marshall says.

“Not only that, but you have to put people around you to complement the things you are not good at.

“Essentially, I want to empower my staff to do their job. I want to worry about the team, their mindset. Then come over the top with an overarching theme of how we play.

The Tigers have been linked with off-contract Panther Jarome Luai. Picture: Phil Hillyard
The Tigers have been linked with off-contract Panther Jarome Luai. Picture: Phil Hillyard
“I don’t want to make the mistake of having my hands in everything and focusing on too many things, instead of the right things, which is the players.

“That is one of my strengths – dealing with people.”

Marshall has climbed the mountain with the Tigers. He wants to go there again. Failure, he says, is not in the equation

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“I am going to have a crack,” Marshall says.

“It is funny how other people think like that. I can’t fathom thinking like that. It doesn’t cross my mind that it won’t work.

“I don’t have that bone in my body. It is like when I play a golf shot – I never see the impossible.”

Daily Telegraph 

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Mac_Tiger reacted
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Avo
 Avo
(@avocadoontoast)
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Fluff season has begun


   
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The Last Ronin
(@the-last-ronin)
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How many of these can we get between now and Christmas. He’s saying the right things but we’ve heard basically the same thing every season….


   
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(@snake)
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Good luck to him a good read just words nothing more , the judgment comes after round 10 next season . No supporter would take anything said seriously after the last decade . We have total non commitment moving into  next season they have lost us completely the damage has been done .
Lost me when he defended the two clowns! I suppose diplomacy is key in his position..


   
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Barra
(@barra)
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Good feels.


   
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(@snake)
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@avocadoontoast One major positive no Brooks saying it’s his team !😂😂😂😂😂


   
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(@tigertownsfs)
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Well it’s going to be different. Not sure it could be any worse.

it’s good that he sees the issues with the outside backs and that he isn’t guaranteeing anyone a spot. Playing favourites has been a big issues at the tigers over a long period. I’d swap out Blore if something came up that would improve our squad. It will be fascinating to see how Sullivan and Fainu go.


   
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Avo
 Avo
(@avocadoontoast)
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The most encouraging thing I took from the interview is Fainu and Sullivan could be halves for round 1. 


   
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(@helmesy)
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Posted by: @avocadoontoast

Fluff season has begun

Stand by for “best preseason ever”.

 

Wests Tigers Podcast - Talking everything Wests Tigers!


   
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(@helmesy)
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Topic starter  

Posted by: @tigertownsfs

Well it’s going to be different. Not sure it could be any worse.

it’s good that he sees the issues with the outside backs and that he isn’t guaranteeing anyone a spot. Playing favourites has been a big issues at the tigers over a long period. I’d swap out Blore if something came up that would improve our squad. It will be fascinating to see how Sullivan and Fainu go.

Sounds like Olam is still a chance.

 

Wests Tigers Podcast - Talking everything Wests Tigers!


   
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Garry
(@garry)
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Posted by: @avocadoontoast

The most encouraging thing I took from the interview is Fainu and Sullivan could be halves for round 1. 

The most encouraging thing for me was Benji saying he was going to empower his assistance to do the roles they are strong in while he focuses on overseeing and building the culture and people. I hope that means Morris we be playing a large role in the coaching and strategy for the team.

 

In memory of Geoff Chisholm (1965-2022)


   
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(@dirty-reds)
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Posted by: @helmesy

Posted by: @avocadoontoast

Fluff season has begun

Stand by for “best preseason ever”.

 

Who do you think will be the first to be "training the house down"? It's usually a reclamation project, so I'll go with Nofo

 


   
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The Last Ronin
(@the-last-ronin)
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Posted by: @dirty-reds

Posted by: @helmesy

Posted by: @avocadoontoast

Fluff season has begun

Stand by for “best preseason ever”.

 

Who do you think will be the first to be "training the house down"? It's usually a reclamation project, so I'll go with Nofo

 

I’ll take Sezer 

 


   
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Avo
 Avo
(@avocadoontoast)
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@the-last-ronin I think so too. There will be an article saying what a wonderful mentor he’s been to the young guys (included in the article will be a pic of Sezer, Fainu and Sullivan all smiling).


   
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(@jedi-tiger)
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Posted by: @dirty-reds

Posted by: @helmesy

Posted by: @avocadoontoast

Fluff season has begun

Stand by for “best preseason ever”.

 

Who do you think will be the first to be "training the house down"? It's usually a reclamation project, so I'll go with Nofo

 

I will take Twal

 


   
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