Marshall-King already thinking about Benji showdown
The plan for Jeremy Marshall-King now is to keep the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs No.6 jersey in his possession for as long as he can – or at least until round 12 when he faces his older brother for the first time.
By then, hopefully the 22-year-old will find people pointing their fingers at veteran Benji Marshall and saying: "There goes Jeremy's brother".
“It’s pretty hard as everyone refers to me as Benji’s brother," Marshall-King said after taking over the five-eighth reins superbly from Matt Frawley in the Bulldogs 20-18 win over the Penrith Panthers.
"But I’ll just make my own name and play my game and keep running the ball when I have to.
"I don’t think about it too much when they keep bringing it up about being Benji’s brother. I look up to him heaps but I want to play my game.
"Hopefully, it’s the other way around one day and instead of being ‘Benji’s brother’, it will be ‘Jeremy’s brother’.
"We’ll just have to wait and see and keep playing good footy."
Marshall-King, in just his fourth NRL game against the Panthers, showed everyone a decent glimpse of what he can produce.
He impressed coach Dean Pay.
"He was good Jez," Pay said post-match. ''I've always liked the kid, he's very coach-able. I think he's got a bright future.''
Marshall-King, who is 10 years younger than Benji, wants his star to remain on the rise until Round 12 when the Bulldogs play Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium on May 27.
"I’ve been asked about it a lot. Hopefully I stay there [five-eighth] until then," he said.
"That’s a good rivalry, me and my bro'. That would be the first time going up against him, so that’d be good.
"I just have to keep working on my defence. It’s been pretty good but there’s room for improvement there for me," the light-framed Marshall-King said.
"There are some big boys out there. I‘ve got to keep manning up against those guys and keep working hard."
They were the explicit instructions from Pay to his young playmaker before his first run in the starting side. Marshall-King had come off the bench in the two previous rounds.
"He just told me to make my one-on-one tackles and don’t be afraid to take that line on," Marshall-King said, being able to absorb the pressure of being given the coveted No.6 Bulldogs jersey.
Terry Lamb was in the ANZ Stadium grandstand watching closely, while television commentators kept referring to his likeness to his sibling, especially in his quick-step change of direction.
"I didn’t really think about it to be honest. I just wanted to play my game and have very good ‘D’ [defence] and I think I did that tonight so I’m overall happy with my performance," Marshall-King said.
"Hopefully, I just keep working hard during the week and keep that No.6 spot. That’s my plan."
He also happily took advice from brother Benji – a specialist half with 271 NRL games to his name.
"Absolutely. He texted me and just said ‘Play your game and don’t be afraid to run the ball’."
Marshall-King is fearless in other respects. He kept up employment as a demolition contract worker while he was in pre-season training with the Bulldogs on a part-time contract.
He had come across from the Tigers' Concord Oval base to Belmore Oval searching for more opportunities, but still found himself third or fourth choice in the halves.
"I was still part-time so I had to just keep working hard and try to get a full-time contract and that’s what happened," Marshall-King said, his face still breaking into a big smile at the thought of signing on the dotted line in an upgraded deal.
"It was an amazing feeling when he [Pay] pulled me in [to office]. He just wanted me to stay and be a full-timer and I was just over the moon.
"I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy from where I had come from."
The secret of the rookie's success should be a lesson for every footballer.
"I worked so hard and put in so much effort. I had a good attitude towards training and just really wanted to work hard for the boys and that’s paid off."