Kemp: Memo to Steve - get Benji back in black

TONY KEMP
Last updated 05:05 13/07/2014
RECALL: The reality is the Kiwis need Benji Marshall for the Four Nations.
Jason Oxenham/Fairfax Media
RECALL: The reality is the Kiwis need Benji Marshall for the Four Nations.

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OPINION: The Kiwis need Benji Marshall back in black.

The team hasn't got enough depth in hookers and halves, and if you look at the way Benji is playing, for the Dragons, he is back to his best.

He is up to speed but he is more balanced in his decision-making.

One of the things you can't take away from Benji is class. If you have got that it doesn't leave you.

For a while there it was his conditioning that was really letting him down but now he is fit and he is running the ball a hell of a lot.

Things have changed since his days at the West Tigers. He got himself into a situation there where he was playing on reputation and not actually playing football.

This move to the Dragons, and with the support of coach Paul McGregor, has done him wonders.

I have always said that Benji has been a step ahead of everyone. When he first started out people thought he was making a lot of errors but he was just a step ahead of the game. When he throws a pass or does something he sees things that other players can't.

At the Dragons he is more balanced and not as aloof as he was. At the Tigers for so many years he got to do what he wanted but now he is following structure. It's suiting him at a time when he really needs that.

That style of play would really fit well into the Kiwis mix.

If you look at what they used in the Anzac Test, where Ben Henry had to go to hooker, and heaven forbid that Shaun Johnson or Kieran Foran got injured, they would be running really light. Having the class of Benji backing up in a Kiwi's jersey would be fantastic.

It would an allow another quality player to be introduced into that Kiwi spine.

Thomas Leuluai has been having injury problems, and whether he can play the whole NRL season out and then go onto the Four Nations, I'm not sure, so have Benji in there instead.

There will be no problem with his desire to play international footy, either. Benji is a competitor, he is a Kiwi. I will never forget when he said he was playing for the Australian schoolboys team against the Kiwis and he said when the Kiwi team did the haka he knew he was playing for the wrong team. He bleeds black.

He has done a wonderful job for New Zealand in the past, and he is not past his use-by date by any stretch of the imagination.

There are a lot of conversations to be had between him and Stephen Kearney - he did leave on uncertain terms when he lost the captaincy, and that wasn't handled well. But he has shown he has matured enough to let bygones be bygones, and move on with his life, and he has still got plenty of international football left in him.

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