Trying to fix the BluesNATHAN BURDON
@nathanburdon On the face of things, we got exactly what we thought from the whole Benji Marshall experiment.
Marshall appeared to be a fading force in the NRL, struggling to hold his place in the West Tigers and no longer really an option for the Kiwis at international level.
He hadn't played rugby union since he was a schoolboy and came into Super Rugby cold, with only a short pre-season to find his feet.
He was playing for a flaky team which badly needed results, not an environment which would have given him space and time to develop his game.
And so Marshall failed, and was failed.
After listening to Marshall talk after his brief cameo against the Highlanders at the start of the Super Rugby season, it was clear that this guy is a competitor.
He loves winning, loves performing at his best on a big stage.
And that wasn't happening with the Blues.
It just wouldn't have fit with his psyche to go back to club rugby for the rest of the competition to try and get himself to a level where he could have played NPC rugby, and then kicked on to the 2015 Super Rugby season.
But, despite the fact the cynics have been proved right, there's a piece of me which is a bit sad that things didn't work out better.
Brad Thorn, Sonny Bill Williams - even Israel Folau have taken some time to emerge in the 15-man game.
Sure, we can shake our heads at what now seems a doomed decision by the Blues to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars on Marshall, we can wonder just what's going wrong with a franchise which has the resources that the Blues have, but can't manage to conjure up - or retain - a decent first-five.
I would have preferred to see Marshall succeed in union.
Some will question what sort of heart he's got for the fight if he's going to give up midseason, but it took a big leap of faith to switch codes in the first place - surely it wasn't all just a sulk after his contract negotiations broke down with the Tigers.
I don't believe he was ever going to be an All Black, but not everyone can.
Maybe Benji is right, maybe his time with the Blues has rejuvenated him and he'll return to the NRL as something like the Benji of old.
He's had umpteen surgeries and is a different body shape to the Marshall who cut shapes out of defences in his prime, but he's still only 29.
In the end, it will take something more special than Benji to fix the Blues.
- The Southland Times