In his own words, NRL great Benji Marshall says sitting on the bench for South Sydney is “better than digging holes”.
“I was looking at retiring not that long ago so I’m actually looking forward to it,” Marshall said ahead of his improbable first foundation derby appearance against the Sydney Roosters on Friday night.
“I’ve watched from afar and seen how much passion and fire there is (between the Rabbitohs and Roosters).”
At 36 and still showing glimpses of his brilliant best, Marshall says he’s loving life at Redfern after super-coach Wayne Bennett unexpectedly extended his storied career to a 19th season.
He’s even happy to be known as “Benchie Marshall” once more if it means being able to still lace on the boots.
“They’re still calling me that, it’s fine. At least I’m still playing. It could be worse. They could be calling me Benji the builder,” said the one-time world player of the year.
Having routinely warmed the pine for the Auckland Blues during his shock mid-career code switch to Super Rugby, the Rabbitohs’ new super-sub says he couldn’t care less if he starts or not.
“I got used to it when I went to union so it’s all good. I’ve still got splinters from that,” Marshall said.
“It’s actually all good. I’ll just sit there and get ready for the call and whatever it is – I played in the middle against Melbourne, played half on the weekend (against Manly) – I’ll just come on and do it.
“The thing I have on my side is I can come on with a lot of energy and experience and try and help the side to calm down or whatever we need at the time.
“I’ve been around long enough to know what the side needs.
“I’m just enjoying being able to still play and contribute to the team.
“My role might not be the same but, regardless, it’s just as important and I see myself here, when I come on, complementing other guys.
“I’m loving it. I’m just loving being here. It’s a great club, it’s a great vibe at training and we’re starting to get better on the field.”
Even Sydney’s big wet hasn’t dampened Marshall’s enthusiasm as he embarks on a new journey with a fourth different NRL club after debuting way back in 2003 and inspiring Wests Tigers’ 2005 title triumph.
“If you don’t have it between the ears, if you’re not ready to run up every day and train your hardest and give whatever you need to give, it’s time to give it away,” he said.
“I suppose that’s why I’m still playing. I may be 36 but I probably act about 16.
“But thanks to Cameron (Smith) for retiring, making me the oldest player in the comp. That’s nice.”