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Is Benji Marshall a good buy?

Can one-time superstar Benji Marshall match the heights of his first run in the NRL with the Wests Tigers? Credit: Grant Trouville Copyright: NRL Photos
Has Benji still got it, are the Storm finished, and where to now for the obstruction rule? Andrew Voss tackles six big issues from the past week of rugby league.

1) Is Benji worth signing?

I say yes… but first I think a club would have to establish how motivated he still is to succeed in the NRL.

I'm delighted Benji Marshall is coming back to the sport of rugby league. As a commentator I first called him playing schoolboy football for Keebra Park State High in 2003. I still vividly recall interviewing this scrawny kid with a questionable hairdo after the match. His playing style was that of a freakish talent. My co-commentator that day was Phil Gould who stated we were all watching something extra special.

Not for one moment did I think he was a right 'fit' for rugby union. But I believe it is in the Super League that he can be great again.

I tend to think his time in the NRL finished having done it all, and at the one club, the Wests Tigers.

He was a genuine superstar of our game. But I don't believe he can scale those heights again nor can he draw the same measure of enjoyment from the challenges and rewards.

The Super League would be a new horizon. He'd kill it there as a star attraction. 

Back in the NRL I can just see many making comparisons between the Benji in the here and now and the precocious untouchable talent he once was.

2) Where are we at with the Obstruction Rule?

I think we are somewhere between confused as hell and no idea. And to be honest, I don't know what we do next.

The league responded to calls last season of eliminating a process of a black and white rule applied by former referees in the video box, by adding a former player to make the decisions drawing on their experience.

In effect we invited subjective opinion into the process. And that was always going to be a surefire invitation for more controversy.

Would the 'bunker' system of the NFL help?

I do now concede it could achieve more consistent rulings given fewer people would be involved, but I would bet my life on there still being controversy.

Maybe it's time for the video referee to only rule on matters in goal and touch.

If two referees don't pick up the obstruction in the run of play, well so be it.

I must admit I do wonder how we ever 'survived' for all those years with just one referee and no video. 

3) After a third defeat in four weeks, do we now write off Melbourne?

I stated in this column two weeks ago I would be prepared to take them on if I was framing a premiership betting market, whilst in the same breath acknowledging being wary of dismissing a champion.

But now consider these worsening defensive stats that had previously been unheard of under Craig Bellamy.

This time last year Melbourne were unbeaten through seven rounds and had conceded 20 points or more in a match only once.

In 2014, they have leaked at least 20 points in all bar one game, and if you add their finish to 2013, that run stretches to nine out of their last 11 matches.

It seems more and more Bellamy is questioning his players' desire. Maybe this really is the beginning of the end. Maybe it's even time for one of the modern day greats of coaching to move on to another club.

Even Wayne Bennett eventually quit Brisbane. Des Hasler has gone from Manly to the Bulldogs. 

For Bellamy by the end of this season it will be 12 years… and nothing lasts forever.

4) Who is the biggest disappointment so far of 2014?

I suppose many would say the Roosters because after all they are the reigning premiers.

But my vote goes to the Cowboys, who may actually need coach Paul Green to "run nude up Pitt street" to distract pundits from how big of an under-achiever they have been as a team.

Their roster is chock full of big match players. A road trip to Townsville should be the toughest in the league for rival teams. The only injury they have had to contend with has been fullback Lachlan Coote, who had never played for them previously.

During the pre-season I had them in my top four. 

Like Melbourne, the Cowboys face a real pressure match in Round 8. If they lose to Parramatta, with big games against Brisbane and the Roosters to follow heading into the State of Origin period, alarm bells will start ringing loud and long.

5) Who is Paul Vaughan?

Well he's not the guy from Dodgeball.

Canberra has a side that could best be described as hailing from the land of the giants, and in Vaughan they have a real big rough diamond.

Straight up and down props don't just score tries like the one he did to win the game for the Raiders against Melbourne last Sunday.

It had multiple steps, a swerve, speed, power and balance. A four-pointer Greg Inglis or Sonny Bill Williams would put prominently on their highlights reel had they have scored it.

But as it was, the moment was provided by a 22-year-old who in the corresponding round last year made his NRL debut, and along the way since has played a World Cup campaign with Italy.

With efforts like last Sunday, I doubt his next rep jumper will be the blue of the Azzurri.

6) Hey Vossy… have you got any better with your tips?

NOOOOOOOO!

That bloke I took hostage last week after he tipped eight out of eight in Round 6, only managed three right in Round 7… so he's no longer in the boot of my car!

This week I have done a crash course in tarot card reading to see if that will help.

Today, the first card I turned over had a sheep on it.

I guess then it's good luck to the Adelaide Rams this weekend!

For the record this is what I have come up with for Round 8: Roosters, Storm, Rabbitohs, Sharks, Cowboys, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Titans.


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