Blues insist that Benji Marshall going nowhere

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 11:46 13/04/2014
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STAYING OR GOING? Could Benji Marshall be making a return to league?

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Constant scrutiny continues to swirl around Benji Marshall's indifferent code switch and, indeed, future but for now the Blues insist he will see out his two-year contract.

Marshall's transition from rugby league has not been as smooth as first hoped, raising speculation of a quick return to league.

English Super League club Salford are the latest to publicly state their intention to make a play for the former Kiwis captain, with billionaire owner Marwan Koukash prepared to offer a salary over $1 million per-year.  

There have also been suggestions the Warriors may approach Marshall.  

Blues chief executive Michael Redman made it clear the franchise had no intentions to realise Marshall early - even if a significant offer was received.  

"We're not even contemplating those scenarios. He and his agent are committed to us," Redman told Fairfax Media this week.   

"We are aware of those murmurings and we're in regular contact with his agent, Martin Tauber, who assures us there's no substance and they're not talking to anyone else or exploring other options.

"From our point of view we're not distracted by that. It's always been a medium to long-term project for Benji to learn his trade. We're committed to that. As we understand it, he is as well.

"We can't stop the speculation but it's not changing our plan."

Marshall's profile is such there is always immense interest in his services.

In terms of value-for-money, Marshall is yet to deliver on his $480,000 annual salary with his limited game-time and struggles to cope with positional switches in the erratic Blues backline.

"It's far too early to early to determine whether it's a success or failure. It's a work in progress," Redman said. "The coaches are aware his game will only develop by being on the field. When those opportunities present themselves Benji needs to take them.

"He's been a great contributor already but we have a responsibility to build a squad. He's one member of that squad.

"There's been additional interest in the Blues since he came on board. He's a great trainer. He's a professional and he's fitted in well.

"We know our fans would like to see him playing but our coaches have a plan for him. They're on track with that plan."

The star recruit was enticed to Auckland from Wests Tigers as a potential first five-eighth solution but struggled to come to grips with the pivotal role during preseason and has since started just one of seven games at fullback.

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Privately at least, it's accepted the 29-year-old probably should have been given the chance to play some of last year's NPC season with Auckland.

In retrospect that scenario would have allowed him more time to adapt to rugby's unique nuances. Grasping rugby's defensive systems and positional aspects has proved a slow process.   

As the race for Super Rugby playoff spots intensifies in the coming weeks, it is difficult to see where or when Marshall will be given a chance.

Despite a shaky effort in Canberra last week Simon Hickey has secured the first-five role and Charles Piutau's form at fullback has been exemplary. Marshall's last two cameos from the bench also hinted he was trying too hard, though the Blues appear content to be patient.

- Stuff

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