Tigers recharged after hollering for Marshall: Prince

Joel Gould |

It’s all smiles in the Tigers camp after Benji Marshall’s debut NRL coaching win over Cronulla.
It’s all smiles in the Tigers camp after Benji Marshall’s debut NRL coaching win over Cronulla.

Scott Prince was in the stands at Leichhardt Oval to watch the Wests Tigers give Benji Marshall his first win as an NRL coach and it reinforced his belief that his former premiership-winning halves partner will be at the helm of plenty more victories.

Marshall and Prince were pivotal in the joint-venture’s only NRL title in 2005 and both are now forging paths as coaches – Prince with Brisbane’s NRLW side and Marshall as the mentor of his beloved Tigers.

The 2005 Tigers met in Sydney last weekend for an annual catch-up and Prince was on hand to watch the 32-6 demolition of Cronulla.

Prince was in the dressing room after the match and said the way Marshall’s speech was received spoke volumes.

“I watched the way he delivered his final chat and I was so impressed with the respect the players have for Benji,” Prince told AAP.

“With the vibe he has around the team I am really excited for what the future holds for the Tigers.

“The playing group believe in what he says and where they are going. That belief within the four walls is all that matters to any footy club.”

Celebrating Wests Tigers players.
Tigers teammates celebrate Jahream Bula’s try in the big win over Cronulla. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

Marshall is not in for an easy ride. His status and profile will ensure every move he makes will be amplified to the hilt.

“I had a chat to him and there is a lot of media strain, as you can imagine down in Sydney where everyone wants blood when a team doesn’t win,” Prince said.

“I don’t understand why that is, but it just seems to be the way across the board.

“He is a young coach doing his best and I was so damn happy for him to get the first win of the season.

“Not only that, but the team was able to put their bodies on the line for him off the back of the game plan they had and the effort they showed defensively. 

“I know it is a long year and there are going to be so many ups and downs for him and the Tigers but there are some really good signs 

“They are going to have to win ugly to claw their way back and build confidence they can take on the heavyweights of the NRL.”

In what will be music to the ears of Tigers fans, the shutout of the Sharks reminded Prince of the 2005 preliminary final where Wests bashed St George Illawarra in an upset 20-12 win that solidified their credentials as far more than just an attacking force to be reckoned with.

Benji Marshall.
Benji Marshall enjoys the minutes after the Tigers booked their place in the 2005 decider. (Matthew Impey/AAP PHOTOS)

“That 2005 prelim was the toughest club game I have been involved in. It was fast, physical and we worked so hard for one another,” Prince recalled.

“We built pressure with our kicking game, where Robbie Farah and myself got repeat sets.

“They did that for Benji the other night and scored several tries off kicks with effort areas around purely contesting for the footy. 

“The Tigers won on the back of defensive effort.”

Prince explained why he believed Marshall would make the transition into an excellent mentor.

“His experience as a player doesn’t mean he will just automatically convert into a good coach, but he knows about delivery under pressure and has a great understanding of the media, which I think is one key aspect of being a head coach,” Prince said.

“Benji knows how to take the pressure off the playing group and get them to believe and trust what he is trying to achieve.

“Right from the get-go he needed the support of the club, but it is great to see that he also wants to do this his way.

“He has signed handy players. One that springs to mind is Justin Olam, from the Storm, who was fantastic against Cronulla.

“Benji has taken a punt on 18-year-old five-eighth Lachlan Galvin. He has shown belief in him, which is a really good thing from a coaching point of view.”

Scott Prince and Benji Marshall.
Scott Prince (7) and Benji Marshall enjoy a win during their premiership-winning season. (Robb Cox/AAP PHOTOS)

Marshall has been able to secure three-time premiership winning Penrith No.6 Jarome Luai for next year, another reflection of the regard he is held in by players in the NRL. 

“Let’s be honest. They haven’t been performing too well but for Benji to get a player of Luai’s calibre to come to the club and hopefully rebuild it to a top-eight team is a really good sign for the future,” Prince said,

Prince has no doubt that the ethos of 2005 Tigers title-winning coach Tim Sheens is having a positive influence on Marshall.

“Tim has the ability to think outside the square holistically while getting you to understand the game and the simplicity of it,” Prince said.

“He challenges you. That is not just Benji or (North Queensland coach) Toddy Payten but everyone Tim has had an influence on.

“I have adopted some of Tim’s philosophies where you not only want to test the playing group but utilise the strength of it.

“Tim was always big on trying to blossom the ability of the player and team to the point where they have to challenge themselves and we are already seeing that at the Tigers.”

Prince said that outlook, embraced by Marshall, was in evidence from captain Api Koroisau through to rising young gun fullback Jahream Bula.

Cowboys coach Payten also caught up with his 2005 grand final Tigers teammates last Friday night on the eve of his own side’s showdown with St George Illawarra.

“Benji understands the game. He understands the club. He knows what he wants his footy team to look like and he knows what he’s got ahead of him,” Payten told AAP.

“I think he is getting the support he needs and I hope he does well, just not against us.

“And one other thing … I have never seen the kid fail at anything.”