Benji's back, baby
Benji Marshall is back, baby. As in, back in his shell.
It was a case of less is more for St George-Illawarra's prized mid-season signing, who turned in his best outing since returning to rugby league in his side's 30-0 shutout of the Sharks on Saturday night.
In just his third game back in the NRL, Marshall was involved in five of his side's six tries, unleashing his full array of kicking and passing – including a trademark no-looker for one of three tries he set up for centre Josh Dugan.
"I'm probably guilty of over-trying the last few weeks and trying to score off every play," Marshall told reporters post-game.
"Tonight I just pulled it back. I played it a bit earlier and probably played a bit more inside myself and it worked out a bit better so I think I can learn a few things off tonight."
Marshall, 29, said he was still trying to eliminate some habits he had picked up in his short stint in the 15-man code and so he took a different approach against Cronulla.
"It's one thing thinking you can play how you play before but putting it out on the field when you haven't had that feeling of the defensive line coming at you... I learnt in rugby I had to throw a lot of legs stuff away and play a lot earlier," he said.
"I think the last couple of weeks I didn't go into the line and didn't threaten the line enough whereas tonight I tried to get tackled a bit and go into the line and commit people to me and it seemed to help."
Since returning to the game a month ago, the 2010 Golden Boot winner has been pilloried for a couple of poor performances that blighted two straight defeats.
Marshall described the reception from fans as being worse than the criticism from the media.
"I knew it was going to happen. Expectation from the fans has probably been more than from the media. But that's just part of it," he said.
"I mean, when you've been at the top of the game for a while and then you're expected to be at that straight away, I knew myself it was going to take time.
"I didn't expect to come back into the team so fast. I've been working hard the last few weeks to get back. Tonight's a step in the right direction, but they had a lot of players out, definitely still have a lot of work to do."
Coach Paul McGregor said while he would remain patient with his star halfback, his performances have improved each week.
"Benji's been showing a bit of class for a couple of weeks, but no one's really seen it except the coach, the staff, and the players that play beside him and the way that we see him train," he said.
"You know, three try assists... problem is we've got to control that class at times. We really need to work teams over a little bit more.
"But for me, Benji's a work in progess. We've all still got to be patient. It's going to take time. Again, tonight there was an improvement from last week and the week before. So I'm happy with the way Benji's going, yeah."