Those questioning Benji Marshall's motives for switching codes should think again. The Wests Tigers star will have to take a $365,000 pay cut to join the Blues next year.
No formal offer has been presented and the Blues are waiting on feedback from Marshall's manager, Martin Tauber, but the Sunday News understands the most the Auckland-based franchise is prepared to offer is $500,000 per season.
Disgruntled at the breakdown in negotiations, Marshall turned down a contract extension with the Tigers worth A$750,000 ($865,748 NZ) a year. On that basis, if he joins the Blues it is for genuine sporting ambitions, not financial gain. In some quarters, particularly in Australia, Marshall has been painted as money-hungry. These figures reveal that could not be further from the truth.
Marshall could earn a maximum base salary of $180,000 at the Blues. The Sunday News understands the likely two-year offer would require private investor Murray Bolton, and other possible sponsors, underwriting a further $320,000 per-year to complete what would easily be the biggest third party deal in New Zealand Super Rugby history.
Revenue Marshall generated in sponsorship, merchandise and season memberships outweighed his contractual worth at the Tigers. It is, therefore, a calculated risk for Bolton and co to stump up such a large contribution from their own pockets. Marshall mania is, indeed, a valuable asset.
There is also the possibility of Blues coach Sir John Kirwan assisting a lucrative stint in Japanese rugby at the end of 2014 to offset Marshall's loss of wages.
Even if Marshall commits to the Blues, the New Zealand Rugby Union won't provide any financial assistance during his first season in Auckland. Initially, at least, the Blues will have to foot the entire half-a-million bill. But if the 28-year-old proves to be a successful convert, and is thought to have a future for the All Blacks or sevens teams, that could change and his earnings would be topped up from the national body.
This situation is a learning curve for all involved. The NZRU have not confronted this sort of private enterprise before. Control is largely out of their hands and it could be a sign of things to come.
Marshall has more attractive offers from the Melbourne Rebels and NSW Waratahs but realises if he wants to fulfil ambitions of being an All Black he can only do that from his country of birth.
Kirwan and outgoing Blues chief executive Andy Dalton were encouraged after meeting Marshall and Tauber in Sydney last weekend. Kirwan and former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry highly regard his professionalism and integrity. The Blues are, meanwhile, not holding their breath on securing the services of Hurricanes first five-eighth Beauden Barrett. Ideally Kirwan would have both Barrett and Marshall in his team next year.
The Blues expect to know whether they have lured Marshall and Barrett within two weeks.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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