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Benji signing a link to the past: Cleary

Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary insists it was important the club signed a player like the returning Benji Marshall to keep the link between the past and future.

‌The signing of the club's favourite son has been well received since the announcement before the side's win over the Sea Eagles last Sunday and Cleary is adamant the veteran playmaker still has plenty to offer.

With key signings Josh Reynolds, Russell Packer and Ben Matulino set to be unveiled next season alongside a host of other new recruits, Wests Tigers fans are set to witness wholesale changes to the line-up next season. 

Bringing Marshall back has softened the blow of losing local juniors Aaron Woods and James Tedesco to rival clubs in 2018. 

"We've mentioned a few times there is change taking place but it's nice to have a link to the past," Cleary said of the Marshall signing.

"Benji's probably contributed on-field as much as anyone and the thing is he's really keen to contribute in the future.

"And that's the main thing. He's adamant he's got a lot left on the field and I wouldn't sign him if he didn't. 

"But he's also got so much he can offer in mentorship and leadership.

"It's a nice story for both club and player and another cog in the wheel, so to speak."

Departing skipper Woods admitted he was disappointed to not be involved next season alongside Marshall again but said it was great the club had confirmed his return.

"He's probably one of the best leaders I've played under and is a team player at the same time," he said.

"It doesn't matter if you're a kid making your debut or played 100-200 games he treats everyone the same. 

"It is upsetting I won't get the chance to play with a guy like Benji again but I still talk to him and hope he does really well at the club next year."

Marshall's experience will prove valuable for the expected halves pairing of Reynolds and Luke Brooks next season, but where the former Kiwi international fits in is anyone's guess.

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has used the 32-year-old in a utility role through the year where Marshall has found peak form once again. 

Bennett famously brought former Newcastle captain Danny Buderus back home in 2012 at the Knights after a long stint overseas and the Wests Tigers are confident of the same impact at Concord.  

The joint venture's fullback role remains up for grabs with mid-season recruit Tui Lolohea set for a move into the No.1 jersey in 2018.

Cleary admitted his game in the five-eighth position was not overly convincing but came good late in the side's last-minute win over the Sea Eagles on Sunday. 

"We went through a period in the first half where we were erratic," Cleary said.

"We were breaking tackles but just lost our way and Tui was guilty of that, 'Brooksy' (Luke Brooks) too. In the second half they straightened up a lot and when Tui scored – that's his thing. 

"When he does that more good things are going to happen so hopefully a breakthrough for him in that regard and I thought Luke [finished] really good. 

"Every play he did had meaning to it and he was composed – more than I've seen before."


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