New Zealand captain Benji Marshall admits he was shocked, then proud to be given the national leadership for the 20th time – seven years after the 19th.

Marshall will overtake Gary Freeman as the Kiwis' most-capped skipper when he leads the side out against Australia in Wollongong on Friday night.

It's an achievement that would have seemed a long way off during a seven-year hiatus from international football that ended against Tonga earlier in the year.

"I was a bit shocked, to be honest," Marshall said at the New Zealand team hotel on Tuesday morning.

"This morning Madge said we'll go for coffee pretty early to talk about some captaincy stuff. I was maybe expecting to talk about who was going to be the captain.

"And then he said, I want you to be captain. I was a little bit taken aback, you know.

"But the opportunity to represent New Zealand is something I'm really passionate about and to be able to lead this group, I thought about it a lot in the last two hours and it's just one of the proudest moments of my career."

Marshall admitted to a little hesitation in accepting the role, in part due to a number of exceptional leaders in the squad including Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

"I said [to Maguire] 'as long as you think that's best for the team'," Marshall added.

"As soon as he said to me that's what he wanted, I agreed with it. I'm really proud and it's something that I'll treasure I reckon for the rest of my life."

Marshall said there was a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work that went into this moment.

He credits former Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary for helping him resurrect his career, Wayne Bennett for giving him a chance at Brisbane and particularly current Tigers mentor Maguire, who he works closely with at both club and Test level.

"Madge come along and pushed me to another level pre-season that I haven't been for a long time and just that hard training and having that base helped me throughout the season feel really good," he said.

"On top of that, he's taught me a lot about leadership as well and how much influence I can have on the group. I suppose those things are a big part of the reason why I'm here."

Marshall believes he was under-prepared for his first stint at national captaincy, thrust into the role at 24 in the 2009 mid-year Test in the absence of Jeremy Smith and Nathan Cayless.

"I obviously got the job as captain a long time ago when I was really young and really under-prepared and under-qualified," he said.

"For this campaign, it's a really proud moment. But I've got a big job to do as well. I'm really looking forward to it.

"When something gets taken away from you, you appreciate it a lot more. And given the opportunity again, I'm not going to waste it. I'm 34 and still feeling alright.

"It's just crazy. It's wild how I'm at this point now at this age. It's still a dream come true to hear your name read out when the team gets read out. I'm stoked, man."

Maguire told NRL.com that being able to give Marshall the good news on Tuesday morning was the type of conversation coaches love.

"I spoke to all the senior players and asked their opinions around the captaincy and things like that and they all were very keen for Benji to do it," Maguire said.

"From a leadership point of view, the senior players look up to Benj for what he's achieved and where he's got his game to at this present moment. He's playing some really good football and he deserves the position."

 

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