But for everything Benji Marshall has achieved, this match is as important as any he has played.
Marshall needs a massive season and the clash this weekend against the Indigenous All Stars is his chance to start on the right foot. A chance to take the first game of the year by the throat and show everyone he is still a game breaker.
Wests Tigers fans will tell you of Marshall’s sheer brilliance and his ability to draw a crowd. That he has turned the Tigers into an NRL powerhouse that continually finds itself playing September football.
All will agree Benji has been great for the game. The kids love him and his performances on the Nine Network’s Footy Show are impressive. It seems the Kiwi playmaker has everything he wants.
But from the outside looking in, Marshall still hasn’t played all his cards. At 27, the Tigers legend has less football ahead of him than behind him.
The hop stepping and pizzazz needs to be replaced by leadership, hunger, grit and the ability to grind out matches for his side.
He needs to show how much it hurts when they lose and how much he cares when they win.
So now he heads into a new stage of his career.
Despite winning a title in 2005 as a youngster, Marshall’s boys have failed to make the Olympic Stadium on the last day of the season since.
Recent history has shown that the great pivots who have won premierships earlier in their careers have returned as leaders and won it again.
Darren Lockyer did it in 2006, Andrew Johns took Newcastle to glory in 2001 and Brad Fittler led the Sydney Roosters to victory in 2002. All were kids when they won their first.
Benji has a chance to silence his critics. And have no doubt, they are out there. 2012 was a season to forget for Marshall and the Tigers.
Despite leading the NRL last year in try assists, Marshall’s Tigers finished a disappointing tenth.
Coach Tim Sheens seemingly copped the blame and was dismissed from his duties in the post-season. You can argue Marshall did his best and you can argue he didn’t do enough when times were tough for the merged club.
You can be flashy and lose a game or you can be the player everyone wants you to be and start winning again.
The balance for Marshall is there for all to see. Whether he finds it is anyone’s guess.
Saturday night will see the beginning of a Marshall resurgence or the same old flash that has got the Wests Tigers nowhere.
Published on theroar.com.au