Benji below par this season, says Lawrence
Chris Lawrence suspects Benji Marshall's ongoing contract negotiations are affecting the superstar playmaker but insists his Wests Tigers teammates need to deliver as well.
While pleased with his game-breaking display in the Tigers' weekend win over Canberra, Marshall on Tuesday admitted his form this NRL season had been "below par" by his lofty standards.
The former world player of the year remains confident his best form is around the corner, but Lawrence says the New Zealand Test ace needs more support.
"Obviously Benji would probably be the first one to say he probably hasn't had the best season, but everyone else in the team has got to put their hand up," Lawrence said.
"There's not one player who is playing bad that is the reason for why our side is not performing this year. There's a number of reasons.
"If we start winning games collectively, a lot of individuals will obviously be performing better, which will probably stop it (criticism of Marshall)."
Marshall is contracted to the Tigers until the end of 2015 and wants to play out his career at the club.
But the 28-year-old's manager has been unable to secure him a long-term deal.
"It probably impacts on him to some degree, but you wouldn't tell by how upbeat and positive he is," Lawrence said.
"On the weekend, he was close to our best player on the field."
First-year Tigers coach Mick Potter dropped Marshall to the bench last month, but the classy playmaker has picked up his game since, piloting the side to a 17-12 win over the Raiders last Saturday in the absence of right-hand man Robbie Farah.
After confessing to losing control of the game against Brisbane the previous week, Marshall took charge against the Raiders, slotting a late sideline conversion to draw the Tigers level and then drilling the decisive field goal.
"I'm wearing No.6, but I'm pretty much playing halfback so I'm pretty much controlling what's happening with the ball," he said.
"Without Robbie there, I have to probably put in a lot more.
"So I think on the weekend I just controlled where we needed to be in terms of field position and controlled the kicking game and helped us win."
Marshall said copping flak was part and parcel of the job.
"I can't help what people write," he said.
"I know myself what I need to do to get better and my main focus is playing well for our team.
"Obviously my form hasn't been the greatest. But when you play well, people stop talking."
The Tigers enter Saturday night's hosting of defending premiers Melbourne at Leichhardt Oval believing they need to win just about every remaining match to make the finals.