Benji pep talk propels Marsters towards Kiwis debut
Wests Tigers centre Esan Marsters has credited a private pep talk with childhood idol turned teammate Benji Marshall for the club performance whch is set to propel him into a New Zealand Test debut.
Marsters is expected to be named in Michael Maguire's first Kiwi side on Sunday for New Zealand's historic clash with England in Denver on June 23, capping a meteoric 12-month rise for the 21-year-old.
The Auckland-born tyro has not missed a single minute of the Tigers' season and clocked a career-high 21 runs for 193 metres in their round 14 loss to Cronulla.
With more involvement than ever before in his 27-game career, Marsters revealed a pre-game rev-up from Marshall, just a day after the veteran five-eighth went down with a six-week hamstring injury, was behind his whirlwind efforts against the Sharks.
"I still pinch myself playing outside Benji and he's been massive for us around the club," Marsters told NRL.com.
"He's really helped me with my game, especially this weekend. He spoke to me before the game, he wanted me to get into the game early and go looking for the ball, get myself really involved.
"I hadn't been doing that the past couple of weeks and Benji pushed me to get back into it. I think I had a career high - something like 21 carries - which is massive for me at NRL level."
A little more than one year after making his first-grade debut with the Tigers, he is in line for his first Kiwi call-up as Maguire works around a number of representative retirements (Russell Packer, Ben Matulino and Simon Mannering) and high profile injuries (Jesse Bromwich, Kieran Foran, Jordan Rapana, Marshall and possibly Roger Tuivasa-Sheck).
Marsters will push established Test stars Peta Hiku and Dean Whare for a start out wide in the black and white, and has no issue with the scheduling of the Denver fixture that has so many concerned throughout clubland.
The youngster's first port of call is a crunch clash against Canberra on Sunday which comes as the Wests Tigers sit outside the top eight for just the second time this season.
While his Tigers teammates Matulino and Packer have called time on their Kiwi careers to focus on club commitments and their young families, Marsters is confident Ivan Cleary will not push him to sit out the Test amid player welfare concerns.
"I haven't heard anything yet, I just want to play good footy for the Tigers and then that puts me in the picture and hopefully gets me picked for that side," Marsters said.
"Knowing Ivan I think he's one of those guys that will encourage you to go represent your country.
"That is important to your heritage, it's not only representing your country for yourself but your family as well.
"That's what we're about here, family is really important and that's what Ivan has installed here at the Tigers."