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'I lost it': The moment Benji broke selection news to family

Ahead of his return to the Test football arena on Saturday, Benji Marshall said sharing news of his Kiwis recall with family was one of the proudest moments of his life.

After more than six years in the international league wilderness, Marshall will line up alongside Shaun Johnson in the halves and earn his 28th Test cap for New Zealand when they take on Mate Ma'a Tonga.

Marshall said the week had been full of emotion and expected that would continue through until kick-off at Mount Smart Stadium.

"I'm paying about $1.01 to cry [during the anthem], so don't bet on it," Marshall said.

"It's actually been quite emotional for me, and seeing my family's reaction to the news that I am playing on the weekend … I lost it hearing how much it meant to them.

"I didn't really understand how much it meant to them until this moment … you forget when you are actually in it how much it means to other people.

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"To be able to pull this jumper on and represent them on the weekend is pretty special."

It's set to be a special experience for Marshall's teammates as well, many of whom grew up idolising the fleet-footed playmaker when he was at the height of his powers with the Wests Tigers and Kiwis.

New Zealand five-eighth Shaun Johnson said he was relishing the prospect of linking up with Marshall in the black jersey for the first time since 2012, when the pair combined in the halves during Johnson's Test debut.   

"I probably didn't think I'd get to play with him again. The fact that we might get a chance to do that is really exciting," Johnson said.

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"You're talking about a guy who has done more for this game in New Zealand than any other player.

"He changed the way a lot of us played the game … [he opened doors] for me and many others.

"Growing up I was in the backyard calling his name doing [his tricks] and I am sure a lot of other boys were too."

After briefly switching to rugby union at the end of 2013, Marshall returned to rugby league in 2014 and spent three seasons at St George Illawarra before joining Brisbane for a one-year stint.

After securing a fairy tale return to the Wests Tigers, the club he won a Premiership with in 2005, Marshall has experienced something of a rebirth over the last two seasons.

Now 34, he said the arrival last year of his first child, Fox, changed his whole perspective.

"Becoming a dad really changed my approach to everything. Everything I do isn't about me anymore, it's about my son," Marshall said.

"It is the best thing that's ever happened to me.

"[My wife] said 'I'm telling you, from a parent point of view this will be one of your proudest moments, your son getting to see you in the Kiwi jumper'.

"I just started crying after that. I had to walk away from the boys because I didn't want them to see me crying.

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"Perspective is a big thing I reckon, and gratitude, all the words like that.

"When you have been out [of the Kiwis] for so long and you come back it's easy to look back on a lot of things.

"I'm not going to take it for granted and am just going to give it everything I have got in this jumper this week."

While Fox is only 15-months-old, Marshall is determined to make sure his son has a strong connection to his Maori heritage and has already started teaching him the haka.

"When I change him at night time after the bath, if I don't do the haka he cries," Marshall said.

"I actually have to do the haka while I'm changing him to make him laugh.

"He knows what a pukana (a gesture made during the haka) is, so when I say pukana on the phone he makes the noise."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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