OPINION: There was a stage in my career when I didn't think I'd make it past 100 games - or at least not get anywhere near where I am now.
The honour of playing 200 games on Friday night, and having that coincide with my final home game, makes for a very special occasion. You don't really play the game for those statistics, but to reach a milestone like that, after having a lot of setbacks through injuries, is something I'm extremely proud of.
I'm proud of my achievements not only in the game, but also away from the field. I have felt like I was a good role model, and gave kids someone to look up to.
Keeping a positive image has been something that has been very important to me.
I try not to look back at the injuries I've had. It's something I'd rather forget, actually.
But I know that the adversity made me stronger. There were occasions when I wanted to quit, but I was extremely fortunate to have the right people around me, friends and family, to keep me on the right track and keep me confident.
Without their support, I don't think I would have made it to this moment.
I can still recall my debut clearly - against Newcastle in 2003. To have my family there was really special. There have been many things I've been proud of, the premiership, representing the Kiwis, and playing every game of 2010.
But I was most proud of being on the field next to my mates, of wanting to play for them.
Throughout my career, I've seen a lot of people come and go. I played alongside a lot of people making their debuts, and playing their last games. They're the matches I remember the most, the memories among friends.
It hasn't quite sunk in, that I'm near the end of my NRL career. And it certainly hasn't happened the way I would have liked. I would have liked to be playing semifinal football. I'd like to be playing better football.
It does make me laugh that people are saying from the sidelines that my heart's not in it. I challenge anyone who says that to come down to training, and see how I train with the team, to see the truth.
I know myself how hard I have been training, and what I've been trying to do to play well. My form is not through a lack of trying. I'm trying to play as hard and as well as I can.
For whatever reason, it's not transferring to the field.
I know my form on the field hasn't been great. Sometimes, I do feel like I'm singled out when things go wrong. I'm comfortable with that. When things do go well, I can get the accolades - you have to take the bad with the good.
People are entitled to their opinions, but to say my heart is not in it is simply wrong. Having said that, as long as my team-mates know that I'm giving my all, and I'm trying to do what I can to offer my best on the field, that's what matters to me.
And it's all been worth the ride, the rollercoaster, the ups and downs. Winning a premiership with the club, and seeing fans, especially kids, wearing my number, coming up to me after the game or writing me letters . . . I'll always have that. They're things I'll never forget. I'm proud of the mark I've left on the club.
There's been a lot of talk recently about my legacy, of how I leave the game. Whatever happens over my final two games, and whatever has happened very recently, I'm happy with my legacy. Whether I finish playing poorly or not, I don't believe my legacy should be tainted - not only on the field but off it as well.
I feel like the style of football that I played made a lot of kids try to emulate me, by practising the sidesteps or the flick passes. To leave those things on the game, and have that effect on the game . . . I don't take that lightly.
I'm getting a bit old now, so the kids of today are looking to be like the Benny Barbas of the sport, or other much younger players. But through my time in the game, I feel like my legacy has been positive. Some people are quick to forget.
I've done everything I can to represent the game of rugby league in the best way I know how.
And I'm extremely proud of what I've achieved.
Benji Marshall is a Wests Tigers and Kiwis playmaker
- © Fairfax NZ News