Murdoch-Masila attracts NRL club interest
The explosive World Cup form of Tongan behemoth Ben Murdoch-Masila has NRL clubs ringing his manager to enquire about the 26-year-old's availability.
The former Wests Tigers and Penrith Panthers forward had a stellar 2017 season for Salford Red Devils where he was named in the Super League Dream Team. He then inked a three-year deal with Warrington which locks him up through to 2020.
Murdoch-Masila's form off the bench for Tonga has turned heads and his manager Mario Tartak's phone has been running hot.
"Ben has been one of the best in the World Cup and there have been a lot of enquiries from NRL clubs about him, but he is currently signed with Warrington," Tartak said.
"He loves it over there [in Super League] and he has signed a really good deal."
However Tartak did not rule out Murdoch-Masila being enticed back to the NRL.
"If something astronomical comes up here, then we would think about it," he said.
Murdoch-Masila, who will line up against England in the World Cup semi-final in Auckland on Saturday, came through the Keebra Park High School rugby league program that has produced a cavalcade of NRL stars including Benji Marshall, Corey Norman and Jordan Kahu.
Head of the Keebra Park league program Greg Lenton described his former student as the best talent he has coached.
The tragic death of Murdoch-Masila's close friend Mosese Fotuaika in 2013 knocked him for six.
Fotuaika also came through the Keebra program and a concerned Lenton watched on as it took Murdoch-Masila several years to rediscover his love for rugby league.
"That was such a tremendous shame because Murdoch was potentially the best I have ever seen," Lenton said.
"But he has got his love of the game back now and has been devastating in that Tongan side.
"Everybody is wondering who he is and talking about him.
"The thing that blew me away from when I first saw him was his incredible explosive speed over five metres. He showed that with the try he set up against New Zealand when he burst through, put on a step and it was all over. He did something similar in the Samoan game.
"Tim Sheens always agreed with me that he could be one of the greats. He said to me 'there will come a day when the NRL will awake one morning and say ''who the hell is this''.'
"He is the best footballer I have had – the most exciting, most explosive thing I have seen."
Lenton was in New Zealand on a scouting trip when he first spotted a giant of a young man playing in the backline.
"It was like this eclipse of the sun," Lenton said, as he described Murdoch-Masila's back-story.
"He was this massive thing playing centre and I thought 'look at this bloke and how overweight he is'.
"At first he did very little but then, all of a sudden, the ball came to him and there was this explosion… and I decided to give him a go.
"When he first came to us he was 152 kilos and he told me he was a centre. I said 'we'll see', because he couldn't do a lap of the oval the first day he arrived.
"We battled with him for quite a while but then we'd find him down at training doing extras, which shows the quality of him.
"In the end he got down to 112 kilos and when he used to run past me at training the ground would rumble."
Lenton is just delighted that such a special talent is realising his potential.
"I have always said to Murdoch I'd love to see him back in the NRL with a good club to show people what he can really do," he said.
"Imagine what Craig Bellamy could do with him."