Benji the Bronco ready to run
Star Broncos recruit Benji Marshall insists that six weeks of touch football has worked wonders for the hamstring injuries that plagued his 2016 season and then went about proving it in his first day with his new club.
A small group of Broncos began their 2017 campaigns at the University of Queensland's St Lucia campus on Monday with newcomers such as Marshall, David Mead, Mitchell Dodds and Tautau Moga joined by the likes of Anthony Milford, Corey Oates, Jai Arrow and Tevita Pangai for a 1.5 kilometre time trial.
Marshall led his group that contained Mead, Moga and Jonus Pearson from start to finish, at one point opening up a 50m gap on his new teammates before eventually finishing 20 or so metres in front of the chasers.
The former Kiwi captain has arrived in Brisbane desperate to reignite his love affair with the game after a frustrating season at St George Illawarra where hamstring issues kept him to just 16 games and the Dragons' attacking structure failed to suit Marshall's style.
Invited to take up a one-year deal with the Broncos after an impromptu chat with coach Wayne Bennett, Marshall is ready to run again and said that his hamstrings will be in good enough condition to handle the load.
"I was a little bit worried about [the hamstrings] to be honest but playing touch football at the highest level really tested that out and I got through unscathed," said Marshall, who was part of the Western Suburbs team that won the Men's Premier League competition in Sydney last month.
"That's all I did to be honest. After the year obviously I wanted to give my mind a break mentally and also physically and touch was demanding but everything else was good to have a break from.
"I did a lot of strength work with the Wests Tigers physio (Peter Moussa) who is one of my good mates who helped me strengthen them back up and I'm feeling good.
"The Broncos staff here they're pretty professional around getting around that stuff and one of the trainers has already said they want to focus on getting the hamstring strength back."
Perhaps somewhat ironically after the year he'd had, it was expressing his desire to hand the playmaking reins back and run again that convinced Broncos coach Wayne Bennett that Marshall was a gamble worth taking.
A close confidant since their days together with the New Zealand national team, Marshall rang Bennett for career advice and an hour later had been handed an NRL lifeline.
"I just said that I want to get my running game back. Bit frustrated that I'd let that go from being a ball-player and he said, 'Good answer, I'll call you back in one hour,'" Marshall recalled.
"An hour later he called me back and said, 'What do you think about Brisbane?'
"I didn't understand what he meant by that and I said, 'What do you think about me?'
"He told me what he wants me to do, 'I'll agree with you, you agree with me now and it's a done deal'.
"We didn't talk money, we didn't talk anything, I just said, 'OK'. We did the deal pretty much over the phone.
"Just talking to him he gave me the confidence to believe in myself again and told me I still had life left in my legs and that he could help me with it.
"To be pretty honest, last year was looking like it was my farewell there for a while.
"This is just my chance to enjoy the footy and be myself and do the things that I'm good at and enjoy doing that.
"I think that's probably what I've lost over the last couple of years so this decision is purely about me."