Benji Marshall left lasting legacy at Dolphins in cameo

Joel Gould |

Current Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall left a lasting legacy at the Dolphins in his 2017 stint.
Current Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall left a lasting legacy at the Dolphins in his 2017 stint.

Benji Marshall achieved it all in his stellar career, but the mark he left on the Dolphins in three cameo displays in 2017 still resonates today with the NRL club and those he played alongside.

Marshall, now the Wests Tigers coach, is up against the Dolphins and his old mentor Wayne Bennett on Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium, with both teams leading the NRL with six points.

In 2017 Bennett had revived Marshall’s career at the Brisbane Broncos after leaving St George Illawarra.

As he eased his way back, Marshall played three games that season with the club’s then affiliates the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Queensland Cup and won them all. He said later that those games had reinvigorated his love for the game.

Benji Marshall (left) and Wayne Bennett
Benji Marshall (left) and Wayne Bennett discuss tactics during their time at the Broncos in 2017. (Albert Perez/AAP PHOTOS)

Bob Jones, chairman of the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Cup and the Dolphins NRL side, summed up Marshall’s influence.

“Once a Dolphin, always a Dolphin,” Jones told AAP.

“I remember Benji telling me at the time that his stint with us here made him fall back in love with rugby league.

“We have nothing but fond memories of Benji.”

Newcastle playmaker Tyson Gamble credits Marshall with giving him belief early in his career that anything was possible.

“Benji’s Redcliffe debut in the Cup was mine as well, so that was a pretty special moment,” Gamble told AAP.

“It is not every day that you can say you played with a legend of the game like Benji Marshall. It is still one of the highlights of my career.

Newcastle playmaker Tyson Gamble
Tyson Gamble says making his Queensland Cup debut with Marshall was a career highlight. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

“I was a bit in awe of Benji the first time I played with him. I didn’t really know what to say or do, but he was a gentleman and made playing footy easy. I learned so much about the game.”

Such was the 2005 premiership winner’s influence at Redcliffe that on the cusp of his 300th NRL game, while playing for Wests Tigers in 2019, the Dolphins posted on Facebook an inspiring tribute.

“Early in the season in 2017, Benji fractured his wrist while playing for the Dolphins (against Ipswich),” the post read.

“Something we remember about that day is that despite the injury, Benji came on to the field at Dolphin Stadium at full time with ice pack in place to sign autographs and pose for photos with young fans.

“He then made his way to the corporate area to meet guests, pose for more photos, accept a fan favourite award and make a speech, ice pack still in place.

“Congratulations Benji, you wore a Dolphins strip a short time but gave many people great memories.”

Jones remembers the clash with Ipswich well. It had a big impact on the club’s bottom line, but much more besides.

“Our crowd doubled,” Jones recalled.

“That was fantastic in itself, but not only did he spend ages with the fans getting autographs he signed his shorts, socks and boots and gave them away before it was popular to do that stuff.

“Benji has done well already with the Tigers as coach and it doesn’t surprise me one bit.

“He’s had all that experience as a player and played under some of the great coaches, including Wayne of course. He was certainly a breath of fresh air for us and so good for our young players.”

Gamble was one of those. He has gone on to play 53 NRL games for the Knights, Brisbane and Tigers, and relished the Marshall liaison.

Benji Marshall
Wests Tigers head coach Benji Marshall watches his players during a team training session. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

 “It was a privilege and I actually got to spend some time down at the Tigers later with him when I signed down there,” Gamble said.

“I got to know Benji off the field, and a key thing about him is that he always puts his teammates first.

“What he brings to the table isn’t just football. He is very good with players, but also everyone involved with the game, which is vital for an NRL coach.”

Former NRL and Queensland winger Adam Mogg relished coaching Marshall in 2017, and said he had thrived as a coach after backing youth.

“I didn’t really coach him. I gave him a jersey,” Mogg grinned.

“We were fortunate enough to have him play for us when Wayne was trying to get some footy in his legs before he went back to the Broncos. The rest is history.

“I didn’t pick Benji initially as someone who would go on and coach because he was so good in the media and I thought he’d have a long and successful career there, but he is doing a fantastic job at the Tigers.

“It is interesting that he has come back to coach against Wayne. They have both got some exciting young players, and it is promising to see Benji blooding young talent. It is great for the game long-term.”