Staff Writers, NRL.com
Benji Marshall will make his NRL comeback with the St George Illawarra Dragons this season.
The former Wests Tigers superstar, 29, will join the Red V on what is believed to be a two-and-a-half season contract after rejecting an offer to join a number of his old teammates at the Cronulla Sharks.
It means Marshall is set to form a halves pairing with Gareth Widdop, with neither Sam Williams or Michael Witt cementing a spot alongside the English star so far this season.
“I’m very excited to be back in the NRL and grateful to the Dragons for the opportunity to represent this great club,” Marshall said.
“To me, the Dragons are a team on the rise which I am very keen to be a part of. I’m looking forward to meeting all the boys and getting back into training and try to earn a spot in the team.”
Dragons coach Steve Price said Marshall would add another dimension to the team's attack.
“Benji is a quality player who I believe will bring that real “x-factor”, especially in our attack,” Price said.
“I have met with him a couple of times, he is a very proud man who wasn’t happy with how his rugby league career ended and is really determined to make the most of his second chance in rugby league.
“He is fit, he trained at number 15, fullback in rugby union throughout the off-season and it will not take too long for him to get back into the swing of rugby league. He is a winner, a senior player who will be a great fit for our squad.”
Marshall has been on the lookout for an NRL comeback since admitting his move to rugby union with the Auckland Blues had proved a failure. He has gone against a vow never to play against the club where he became a superstar, Wests Tigers, by signing with the Dragons.
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The Tigers will seek compensation from the Dragons, as Marshall still had two seasons to run on his contract when he quit Concord at the end of last season.
However, it is understood the Tigers have no interest in blocking Marshall's return to rugby league. The club almost immediately ruled themselves out of a reunion with the superstar after he quit rugby.
The Sharks confirmed in a statement on Friday that Marshall would not be joining their club.
“We made Benji a very good offer and are disappointed he won’t be joining our club,” Cronulla chief executive Steve Noyce said.
“We have strong values surrounding mateship here at the Sharks and with a collection of his good friends at the club thought that may have swayed him. As it turned out that obviously wasn’t the priority for him with his final decision. We can accept that and we wish him well.”
Noyce said while Marshall have complemented the current playing group, he was happy with the current roster.
“It must be said in Todd Carney, who is on a long term contract here, and Jeff Robson who has been terrific for us this year, along with others we have coming through our lower grades, we certainly have quality players in the halves and confidence in their ability to do the job for us,” Noyce said.