Not since he played with Scott Prince almost a decade ago has Benji Marshall felt as free and relaxed on a football field as he does with Gareth Widdop.
Marshall has played alongside 18 different halves partners in his career, and since playing alongside Prince has struggled to find the perfect foil for his off-the-cuff style of play. Now he says he has finally found a playmaker who suits his game.
"Playing with Scott Prince was probably the easiest few years of my life because he controlled everything and just gave me the ball when I called it," Marshall said.
"Sometimes I didn't have to call it, he just knew when I wanted it, and that's what I've got here with Gareth.
''It's not a matter of having to say anything, it's just a wink and a nod to each other. I can tell when he wants the ball - I can't understand his English, anyway."
Among the 18 different halves partners Marshall has been through were Keiran Kerr, Blake Lazarus, Jacob Miller and Tom Humble.
While those players have not gone on to bigger and brighter things, Marshall took some responsibility for their inability to find their feet when alongside him.
"For those kids, it was probably more my fault because I'd try and take on too much and overplay too much," Marshall said.
"Chilling out a bit now and taking the ball when I need to. Don't get me wrong, in big moments in games I still want the ball, but if it's not on for me I'm happy for Gareth to call it and take it, and he's the player who would.
"There have been games when Gareth's been on fire and I let him take the ball all the time. When he's hot, just let him have it, and the same goes for me if I've got the hot hand.
"I started to get there a little with [former Wests Tigers player] Rob Lui. We started to build a good combination and had a bit of success in the semis, then we lost him."
When Marshall returned to rugby league after a brief stint in rugby union, he needed a few games to find his rhythm.
Again he says he was trying to do too much.
"Absolutely, it was over the top," Marshall said.
"I think one game I had 78 touches and he [Widdop] had 30 something, whereas now we get 50-50. Just sharing up that workload a bit, and attacking both sides.
"In the past I probably tried to be in control of everything. Now we have this thing where Gareth and I try and get an even share of possession and share the workload of being in control. Gareth is a player you have to defend, so if they put too many defenders on his side, I'll take the ball and vice versa."
Marshall was the face of the Wests Tigers before leaving to play Super Rugby with the Blues.
While he did not realise it at the time, the former Kiwis skipper believed he overloaded himself with responsibilities, both on and off the field.
"Looking back, you probably say it would have had an effect," Marshall said.
"I didn't think it was at the time, but I didn't have anyone telling me the truth or challenging me to not take too much on. At the Tigers I didn't feel like I could drop my workload or try and take less on because I felt the pressure to be in control.
"It was hard to take a back seat because I didn't have anyone stepping up to run the show. I probably did what other people wanted too much and made decisions based on what I thought would make other people happy, instead of myself. Now I do what's beneficial for me."
Benji Marshall's halves partners: Daniel Fitzhenry, Keiran Kerr, Scott Prince, John Morris, Paul Whatuira, Mathew Head, Robbie Farah, Blake Ayshford, Tim Moltzen, Robert Lui, Blake Lazarus, Chris Lawrence, Jacob Miller, Tom Humble, Curtis Sironen, Liam Fulton, Braith Anasta, Gareth Widdop.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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