Benji Marshall could be denied a 200-game farewell to the NRL - or be forced to mark the achievement via the bench - after the Wests Tigers successfully applied for permission to select under-20s star Luke Brooks for Saturday night's clash with St George Illawarra.
Pressure has been mounting for Super Rugby-bound Marshall to be axed in favour of Brooks with fans demanding the club plan for 2014 by blooding the 18-year-old for the last three rounds of the regular season.
Criticism of Marshall has intensified since he wore a Blues jersey when confirming his code switch to the Auckland-based franchise earlier this month; his on field performances have also alienated fans as they endure a disastrous season.
In the latest indication of dissent towards one of the club's favourite sons, an online petition was launched on Tuesday demanding he be dropped.
The former Kiwis captain was named by Mick Potter at five-eighth on Tuesday and although the head coach admitted it would be difficult to deny Marshall double centurion status the club yesterday applied for permission to include Brooks and another promising potential debutant, Nathan Brown, in the 17-man squad.
A statement from the club said permission to breach the second tier salary cap was granted by NRL salary cap auditor Ian Schubert.
Potter will decide after training tomorrow whether Brooks, who has long been identified as Marshall's heir apparent, and rookie front rower Brown will feature in a rejigged line-up to play at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The statement said Schubert agreed to the Wests Tigers' request because both sides are out of title contention, and the dispensation only applies to this weekend's fixture.
If Marshall is omitted from the game-day squad for the first time this season the 28-year-old would have to play against the Rabbitohs next Friday and then the round 26 clash with North Queensland in Townsville to sign off with 200 games.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Who do you think will win the Rugby League World Cup?