Benji Marshall ready for emotional Tigers clash

MATE AGAINST MATE: Dragons recruit Benji Marshall will run out against the Wests Tigers for the first time on Sunday.
MATE AGAINST MATE: Dragons recruit Benji Marshall will run out against the Wests Tigers for the first time on Sunday.

Benji Marshall says he takes great pride in watching the development of Wests Tigers youngsters Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses as he prepares to face his former teammates for the first time on Sunday.

While Marshall played down the clash, all the focus will be on the two No.7s when Marshall and Brooks cross paths at ANZ Stadium. The talents of Brooks and Moses helped lead to Marshall's departure from the club at the end of last year, ending his stint at 201 top-grade games at the club.

Marshall said he had worked closely with the duo and understood the pressure on Brooks.

''I pride myself on passing whatever I know to help out the young guys whenever I can,'' he said. ''I have been that young guy before and had guys like Scott Prince, Mark O'Neill, John Skandalis helping me out. I knew they were talented and were going to be stars. I just wanted to try to help wherever I can. That's no different to what I am doing [at the Dragons].

''I feel a little bit sorry for Brooksy. Before I left there was a lot of pressure being placed on him to be the next Joey [Andrew Johns], which is a big call because Joey is an Immortal and probably the greatest player of all time. He doesn't need that. He is a kid who is in his first season of first grade who is performing pretty good. You just don't need those raps. Sure he might end up being the next Joey but for now he doesn't need to be.''

Marshall has landed at St George Illawarra - an unlikely proposition a year ago when he decided to switch to rugby union. He said he was unsure what emotions he would feel and the feedback he'll receive from Tigers fans on Sunday.

''I don't know,'' he said. ''I have never really been in that situation. It's more about improving on my performance and trying to get back to the last couple of weeks of just controlling the team, good kicking game and putting the other team under pressure. That's basically what I am going to be thinking this week, more than who we're playing.

''I've played enough emotional games, big games, to know what it's going to be like. As far as I am concerned, I had 12 years, the best years of my life, won a competition there, met some great friends and became friends with a lot of the fans. Whatever happens, happens. I know there is a lot of emotion in sport and people get a little bit filthy on players who leave clubs. But I am not the first person to leave the club and I won't be the last.''

Marshall scored his first four-pointer for the Dragons in their 21-12 loss to Manly on Monday night, eight games into his NRL return. He pointed to his wrists when he crossed in honour of a  young relative who died of cancer recently.

Marshall said he had focused on himself during his transition at the Dragons. 

''I have been focusing on myself more than anything,'' he said. ''I am trying to stay out of the media and focus on playing footy. Footy has been my priority. Probably the first time I have been a little selfish like that to try to be as good as I can. I have done enough worrying about other people in the past and trying to fix everything and trying to be in control of things that I wasn't in control of. Now it's about [what] I can only control myself and that's trying to play my best for the club.''

Sydney Morning Herald