In Chicago, the Bulls have a tribute statue to “His Airness” Michael Jordan while the Lakers have honored the achievement of the historic Showtime Lakers with monuments to Irvine “Magic” Johnston and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar outside the Staples Center in LA.
The Lisbon Lions also watch over Celtic Park in Glasgow to remind fans of the club’s proud history as the organizations strive for greatness into the future.
What do all these past greats have in common? They all took the sporting world by storm, changing the way their respective sports were played and inspiring the next generation of players that came after them.
For the Wests Tigers, there is no player more deserving of this kind of recognition than Benji Marshall.
With the Wests Tigers new Centre of Excellence beginning construction, what better way to remind people of the hard work individuals like Benji Marshall have put into the club than with a statue in his honor.
Wests Tigers Podcast put up a post on Facebook during the week asking the question to the fans directly and the results showed overwhelming support for the concept.
So here are three reasons why Benji Marshall deserves a statue outside the Wests Tigers new Centre of Excellence:
- Benji is the most influential player in the club’s history
Along with Robbie Farah, Benji Marshall put the Wests Tigers on the map helping forge the club’s identity as an attacking powerhouse.
After debuting in 2003 as a schoolboy from Keebra Park, Benji Marshall helped deliver the club’s maiden premiership with a performance that will be remembered in Rugby League folklore for generations to come.
When the bright lights are on and pressure mounts, the great ones stand up. Benji did what only Benji could do producing some Marshall magic mesmerizing the Rugby League community.
I ask you this; is there any player in Rugby League history that could break the line, run 80 meters and set Patty Richards up with the best pass on Grand final history?
Nobody comes to mind which is a credit to just how unique a legend Benji Marshall is.
Benji’s career hasn’t been all smooth sailing however. After Grand Final glory in 2005, Marshall faced several shoulder reconstructions placing his career in doubt.
However, champions never give up and this is exactly the attitude that saw Benji Marshall bounce back to lead the Tigers one point away from a Grand Final and claiming the Golden Boot award as the best Rugby League player in the World in 2010 after beating a Kangaroos team which boasted Rugby League greats such as Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk
2010 to 2011 was prime of Benji Marshall’s career in my opinion, however, 2018 saw the beginning of a renaissance for Marshall magic. After a hiatus from the club, Benji Marshall returned to the Tigers in a move that fans thought would see the legend retire at the end of the season.
Destiny is a funny thing however with starting five-eight Josh Reynolds doing his hamstring just before round one allowing Marshall to retake the number six jersey he made famous.
However, this would not be the same Benji Marshall that fans were accustomed to seeing. From 2018 to the present, Marshall has become a leader and a game manager that his younger self would envy.
I never thought I would see the day where Marshall won the game for the Tigers with his kicking game as he did against the Dragons.
But this is what Benji does, he inspires people whether it be with his god-given ability and natural talent or his determination to be great despite adversity.
What better way to inspire the Tigers going into the future then a statue of a player that has proven a person can overcome any set back that is placed in front of them as long as they are willing to work.
- Benji changed the game by inspiring the next generation
The sign of any great player is the impact they have left on their sport after they retire and although Marshall is still an active player, it is clear as day the impact he has had on the NRL.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and whether it be the flick pass or the step, Benji’s attacking brilliance has rubbed off on the next generation.
Thanks to Benji Marshall, the League today gets to enjoy the attacking brilliance of players like Shaun Johnson, Kalyn Ponga, and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Marshall paved the way for these kinds of players which is a massive reason why Benji isn’t just a Tigers legend but a Rugby League legend also.
- Marshall loves the club
When both Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah returned to the club in 2018, it was clear how much the Wests Tigers meant to the two players.
As a fan of the club, this was so refreshing to see as in the previous seasons, the Tigers invested in players that didn’t demonstrate this same passion for the club taking parting shots at the organization after they had gone showing a real lack of respect for the fans that supported them.
Watching Marshall and his passion for the club really makes me happy as a fan because I can see the Tigers means just as much to him as they do to me.
The Tigers need to find a way to recreate this connection to the club for the younger generations so that 10 years down the track players like Jake Simpkin and Tommy Talau have this connection to the club.
In my mind, there is no player that represents the identity and values of the Wests Tigers better than Benji Marshall which is why a statue to commemorate the club’s best-ever player is so fitting.