Benji Marshall still finding his feet with Dragons
Benji Marshall's underwhelming return to the NRL continued against South Sydney as the former Kiwis and Wests Tigers playmaker battles to make an impact for struggling St George Illawarra.
Billed as a potential saviour for the Dragons following his unsuccessful code switch to the Blues, the 29-year-old is still establishing a rapport with teammates already out of synch, as evidenced by seven losses in their last eight games - including last night's 29-10 loss to the Rabbitohs.
Marshall's ANZ Stadium was undeniable but in a display reminiscent of his subdued comeback against Parramatta on May 17, the 2010 Golden Boot winner's telegraphed sideways running and inaccurate passing attracted ridicule from opposition fans.
High punts from Marshall did instigate both Dragons tries but a knock-on, hospital pass for fullback Adam Quinlan and a ball flung behind Josh Dugan - a failed experiment at centre - detracted from his kicking game.
After being content to primarily play a supporting to five-eighth Gareth Widdop against the Eels, Marshall last night received the ball 70 times to the Englishman's 36 and he also assumed responsibility for the restarts.
He had two tackle breaks, 11 tackles and a late burst after intercepting a pass while hard on defence.
Marshall briefly rekindled memories of his famous break and reverse pass to try scorer Pat Richards during the 2005 NRL Grand Final, but there was no repeat when his audacious flick found Jason Nightingale because the wing kicked ahead and the ball was deflected into touch.
Signed to a 2 1/2-year deal last month, the resurrection of Marshall's 201-game first grade career was assured of being highly scrutinised, and new Dragons head coach Paul McGregor echoed the sentiments of his predecessor Steve Price when defending the club's marquee acquisition.
"Thing's take time. Benji's going to take time. We've got to be patient. We all know he can play (but) we trying to expect him to play of the Benji or old when he's only been in the game for a couple of minutes.
"Just give him time and patience and we'll see some fruits, for sure," said McGregor after his first game in the top job.
St George Illawarra fans tended to agree when Marshall's recruitment - and performances so far - were debated in a leagueunlimited.com forum.
"It's not Benji's fault, we have the worst coaching staff and the worst structure. We need a new coach," submitted St Georgio.
"Yeah he was bad (last night), not our worst though .... having a crack at least," added St Phil.
However, not all were willing to give Marshall time to adapt to his new environment.
"He doesn't need time, he needs a time machine," wrote one detractor.