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Benji exits, opportunity knocks

Benji Marshall's impending departure from rugby league may be a disappointment for fans but it also presents a great opportunity for a player of the future to make his mark. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos

There are two ways to look at the impending departure of Benji Marshall from our game at the end of the year. For some, it will be a devastating blow as one of the most popular and marketable players in rugby league heads elsewhere – although I prefer to look at it as an opportunity.

Obviously we would all like to see him stay in rugby league and we’d love to see him play out his career in the NRL so it is unfortunate. But in saying that, we now have an opportunity to find another young superstar.

They will have big shoes to fill but that’s the great thing about our game – we lose amazing players but we find new guys coming through. There will always be that opportunity for the regeneration of our talent and that’s how I like to look at it. This opens the door for our next young superstar.

For the Tigers, there will be some short-term pain. They certainly weren’t expecting to be without Benji as early as next year, so this presents a challenge for them. It could be a few years before we see them in the finals again. But again, they have players coming through. It is a fresh start for the club and they have already stated that they want to focus on the young talent coming through their ranks. They won the Under-20s competition last year, so they obviously have some serious talent there.

This is all part and parcel of our code. Clubs and teams go through these changes and the Tigers need only look as far as Penrith if they want a positive. There was a lot of doubt over what they could produce given the loss of Luke Lewis, Michael Jennings and Michael Gordon this year but they have unearthed some amazing young talent, which just goes to show that as one door closes, another one opens. It will now be up to another young guy to grasp this opportunity.

At the Tigers, a lot of responsibility now falls onto the shoulders of Robbie Farah but again, he must also see this as an opportunity. When I went to Penrith I saw it as a chance to be a part of the growth of a group of young players. I’m pretty sure that’s how Robbie will see it too – as an opportunity to leave a legacy there. He can leave his mark as a player but also help mould the standards and the values of the Tigers over the years to come, simply by being the strong leader that he is.

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It will be interesting to see what impact the loss of Greg Inglis has on South Sydney in the lead-up to the finals.

They clearly missed his ability to find his way to the try line last Monday night, which is what he brings to the South Sydney team.

There would also be a level of confidence that Souths would have whenever he is on the field knowing all they have to do is lay a really strong platform. But you take ‘G’I out of the equation and you’re down four to eight points a game. That’s going to be the challenge for them moving forward.

It’s no secret that momentum is crucial ahead of the finals and this is always the testing period coming out of Origin. There is no more rep footy to worry about, it’s all about the run into the semis and building that momentum gives you so much confidence.

Souths will be looking over their shoulders now because there are some other teams that will really hit their straps now that rep footy is over and they are concentrating on the weekly grind of the NRL. The big question is, how will they respond to the challenge?

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