Benji Marshall: 'I'm about integrity, loyalty'
Benji Marshall has bristled at comparisons between his impending exit from the Wests Tigers and Sonny Bill Williams' shock split from the Bulldogs for French rugby in 2008.
Although Australian rugby league is about to lose another superstar to the rival code - Williams is now redeeming himself at the Sydney Roosters - Marshall saw no similarity between how the Kiwi players have severed their ties with the clubs that moulded their footballing careers.
Williams infuriated the Bulldogs' fans when he left mid-season without notice for Toulon, a career move that culminated in a rugby union World Cup winners' medal and Super Rugby title at the Chiefs before returning to Sydney.
Marshall's decision to seek a release from the final two years of his contract has also caused angst among the Wests Tigers faithful although the backlash has not been as severe as what Williams copped.
While Williams left for a lucrative deal in the south of France, Marshall insists he will take a pay cut regardless of where he plays rugby union for the first time in more than a decade.
Marshall's argument is a revamped management structure at the Tigers saw the club reneged on a contract upgrade he agreed with former chief executive Stephen Humphreys.
An emotional Marshall told Channel 9's The Footy Show last night that he expected to be at the club until 2017.
Instead he was offered a two-season extension, reportedly worth $A1.5 million (NZ$1.75m), an offer he turned down on Monday night.
Asked if there were parallels with Williams' departure, Marshall said: "I'm about integrity, loyalty."
Nominating that as the main reason for leaving at the end of the season, he added: "That's what I've shown the club and sometimes that hasn't been reciprocated.
"When the management got changed around they told me that agreement wouldn't be honoured. From a treatment point of view I didn't really think that that was fair.
"I didn't really want to leave the club but in the end I sort of felt like I had no choice."
Marshall reiterated money was not a motivating factor.
"In the last six years I've taken four pay cuts over years to keep the club under the cap to try and help us," he said.
"Money's not the driving factor for me. I thought I was going to be here for the next five years."
The 28-year-old said he viewed the future with a sense of trepidation.
"The reality is I haven't ever had change," he said.
"It's exciting for me but I'm nervous as well.
"I've made a decision without having a contract to go to. I'm willing to do that and get a fresh start and prove to everyone I can do that (rugby) as well."
Marshall added there was no timeframe on when a rugby deal would be finalised.
Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter admitted his decision to bench Marshall in round 10 against South Sydney didn't help the five-eighth's frame of mind but felt their relationship was workable.
He was sad to see Marshall go although regeneration was always necessary.
"There's always someone coming through, there's always other people," he said.
"You'd like to think you're indispensable -Benji to a degree has made himself that, but there's always younger guys coming through and you always have to keep looking to younger people.
"One of the younger brigade are going to have to step up and step into that breach."
But not tonight, the floodlights will be squarely on Marshall as he runs the backline - and possibly the gauntlet - against the New Zealand Warriors at Leichhardt Oval for the last time.