Benji 'just getting warm', says Kearney
He tore apart England last week but New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney is adamant that the best of Benji Marshall is yet to come.
Having already guided Wests Tigers to within one week of the grand final only last month, Marshall has continued his slashing form into the Four Nations with a starring performance in the Kiwis’ 24-10 win in Wellington last Saturday night.
But with this week’s Test against Papua New Guinea to be followed by the highly anticipated clash with Australia, Kearney believes Marshall is just getting warmed up for the road ahead.
“Personally, I do think that is the case,” he told NRL.com. “Benji is a competitive individual – he always wants to improve himself and get better so I know he will be working towards that.
“That’s all part of his maturity and the learning process he has gone through over the years.
“He has a team of very good players around him and he knows that if he does what he does best and everyone does their job around him then we’re a fairly formidable team to come up against.”
Kearney said Marshall had become increasingly easy to coach over time as he continued to live up to the potential he first showed when he debuted for the Kiwis in 2005.
“I guess as a coach you always want more from the players but I think Benji has taken a lot of steps forward,” he enthused.
“The back end of this year – and he always had been dominant at club level – but certainly he was significant towards the back end of the season.
“And Benji would be the first to admit that he still has a lot of improvement in him.
“The important thing for him is to keep working on those improvements.
“He is still only a young player, really, so if he continues along those lines he is going to get even better.”
New Zealand will head into Saturday’s clash with the Kumuls in Rotorua as red-hot favourites to make it two from two in this year’s Four Nations.
But Kearney said it was important that the Kiwis didn’t let down their guard against a side renowned for its physicality.
“I know exactly what we’re facing in terms of attitude from the Kumuls side,” he said.
“They certainly showed their hand against the Australians with what they’re capable of from a physical point of view.
“That’s how they play and they’re different athletes to what we’re used to. I saw a picture of them coming out of the water at Coogee and it didn’t look like they were carrying much excess in terms of their bodies – they looked pretty chiselled!
“From my point of view, in terms of attitude and what the game means to them, we’re coming up against a pretty lethal group of players.
“It’s a completely different attitude and a different mindset to what we would come up against with Australia or England and from that sense it throws up some challenges.
“I think Australia was a little frustrated at times last week so for us it’s important that we stick to our principles of what we want to do in the game.
“The pressure we’ll be put under will come in a different way than it does against Australia or England.”
Asked if he already had one eye on next week’s big clash with the Kangaroos, Kearney said: “No not at all, to be quite honest.
“We’re very clear on what we’re facing this week and if we’ve got our eye on anything else then we’re going to find ourselves in trouble.
“We know what’s important to us and that’s our focus.”