All the criticism and talk that we had seen the end of Benji Marshall only spurred him to try and prove his critics wrong, but he just kept digging himself into a deeper hole.
But it wasn't until he finally accepted that it was the end of the Marshall we all once knew that he finally managed to climb his way out of that dark hole as a completely different player to the one that set the competition alight for the best part of the last decade.
"I think the first part of changing the way I play was admitting that I couldn't be the player I was when I was 18 or 19," Marshall said. "Once I admitted it everyone sort of took the pressure off me trying to be that player. Mary [Paul McGregor] sat me down and said play the experience for the team, show them the way with your actions and that's what I've tried to do.
"It hasn't been easy, it's been pretty hard to be honest ... I think Mary has helped me, been honest with me and helped me get my confidence back."
Dragons coach Paul McGregor has praised the maturation of Marshall, who he believes no longer plays with the mentality of trying to score off every play. Since returning from rugby union, Marshall has shown signs of composure and patience that were rarely sighted during his time at the Wests Tigers. But on Sunday afternoon in the 34-6 win against the Titans at Jubilee Oval, Marshall orchestrated the victory before eventually succumbing to an ankle injury.
"When he first came through he was a brilliant player - and he still is - but he used to just get the ball in his hands and play off the cuff a little bit and anything could happen," McGregor said. "Now he's got really good players around him who can also score points.
"What we need from him is to get the ball in the hands, place a kick in the right position ... I'm never not going to challenge him to run the ball because that's one of his biggest strengths but we don't need to score off every play. That comes with composure and that's what he's bringing to the football team at the moment."
McGregor said he was delighted with the mentality of his halfback, adamant there was still plenty of improvement in his game.
"The composure that Benji is starting to play with, he's just going to get better and better at it," McGregor said. "He's a leader and one of our most experienced players, but he's not that bloke that he was 10 years ago. He's a different player. The type of player he is and the way he plays, he's got to be all for the change and he knows he is and you can see in the last two weeks of his footy how far he's come."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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