Benji targets Nines for Broncos debut
Brisbane may be beginning to feel like home but Benji Marshall is hoping to make his debut as Bronco on foreign soil at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines next month.
With just three weeks until the two-day tournament that will signal the start of a 2017 season spanning 301 days, how Marshall fits into the Broncos 17 for Round 1 remains a mystery to the man himself but even at 31 years of age the format of the Nines will suit the former Dragon perfectly having kept fit in the off-season by playing A Grade touch football in Sydney.
In his only previous appearance at the Auckland Nines Marshall captained St George Illawarra to two wins in the pool stages but the Dragons failed to progress to the quarter-finals on points differential.
The Broncos have a trial against defending premiers Cronulla at Dolphin Oval in Redcliffe on the same weekend as the Nines and a 19-man squad will travel to England to face Warrington in the World Club Series on February 18.
Marshall missed last year's Nines tournament and after two months of intensive conditioning work in which he has excelled is champing at the bit to start the next chapter of his career as a Bronco.
"I'll be on the plane for the Nines hopefully and get a start there and try and get some form on the board," Marshall told Broncos TV.
"It's not too far away now, I'm looking forward to it. Get me on the field."
Joined by wife Zoe, their dogs and furniture in the past week, Marshall's life in Brisbane has a greater sense of normalcy after his sudden and unexpected move to the Broncos during the off-season.
He admits that he still doesn't know what position coach Wayne Bennett has in mind for him to play this season but said having a more settled life off the field will enable him to get the best out of himself.
"It's been tough to be honest," Marshall said.
"Obviously being apart from your wife is not easy but she's moved up here now and all our furniture is here so it will be a bit easier to get more settled in and relaxed but the boys and the club have been awesome in getting that set up.
"I think that just makes it easier having your family here and having your normal set-up around. It's obviously going to help me train better and then hopefully play better so looking forward to the year.
"That first block before Christmas was a lot about conditioning and getting fit and now we're starting to touch the ball and get a feel for where we're playing.
"I still don't know where that is to be honest but I'm just enjoying myself and really getting a feel for enjoying footy again and that helps you play better.
"Being around a great bunch of guys and great coaching staff is making my job a lot easier."
The 2005 premiership winner with the Wests Tigers said the support of the rugby league-loving public in Brisbane has also made his transition a pleasurable one.
"Everyone I have come across have wished me well on my journey at the Broncos," he said.
"People just come up on the street and say that off their own bat so I can't thank the people enough. It's been a great journey so far.
"It's pretty relaxed and something that I was used to growing up. Obviously going to school on the Gold Coast that feel of the sun and the heat and nice warm winters and the people here are awesome.
"Obviously coming here you don't know what to expect but from the get-go it's been a professional set-up and I've really enjoyed the training and got to know a lot of the boys."