Adam Reynolds has idolised Benji Marshall since watching the then 17-year-old “Ben Marshall” star for Wests Tigers at the 2003 World 7s so before the end of last season the South Sydney captain asked him for an autographed jersey.
After being thrown a lifeline by Souths coach Wayne Bennett for this season, Marshall was able to personally deliver the jersey to Reynolds at training and now the veteran halfbacks are preparing to play together.
Exactly how Marshall fits into the Rabbitohs line-up is unclear but he is willing to play dummy half or a loose forward role and there is excitement at Redfern about the prospect of him, Reynolds, Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell and Damian Cook being on the field together.
“The game is speeding up and probably the more ball players you have on the field at the one time is better for the team,” Reynolds said.
“There is going to be some tired legs out there at some stage so he is going to be dangerous whether he starts or whether he comes off the bench.”
Reynolds is six years younger than Marshall and recalls watching him at the World 7s almost six months before he made his NRL debut for Wests Tigers off the bench at Campbelltown Stadium on July 27, 2003.
At the time Marshall was a little known schoolboy from Keebra Park High, who was named in the No.1 jersey as “Ben Marshall” in The Sydney Morning Herald’s team lists for the World 7s, but he made a lasting impression on Reynolds.
“I idolised Benji when I was growing up,” Reynolds said. “I loved watching him play and I loved seeing him do what he does.
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“I remember watching him as a 17-year-old at the World 7s. That is where I fell in love with him, just seeing that great sidestep and everything he produces.
“He has still got it, he is a great talent and he has a great work ethic so he is a great acquisition for this club.”
Marshall, who phoned Bennett looking for a chance to continue playing after being told Wests Tigers couldn’t accommodate him and a move to Canterbury fell through, revealed that Reynolds had asked him last year for an autographed playing jersey.
At the time there were fears that Marshall may not play again and he put aside the jersey from one of his final games for Wests Tigers for Reynolds.
“He said, ‘hey bro, can you save me one of your jerseys and sign it for me’. I said, ‘yeh, all good. We will swap,’ and now I am here playing with him,” Marshall said.
“He asked me late in the season and I was running out so I save him one. It is the last one. I've had it at home for him.”
I idolised Benji when I was growing up. I loved watching him playAdam Reynolds
The 36-year-old accepts that Reynolds and Walker will be Bennett’s first-choice halves pairing after steering Souths to within one win of the grand final for each of the past three seasons but he believes there is a role for him within the team.
“If I have got to play a bit of hooker or in the middle, I don’t really care. I just want to play,” Marshall said.
“I think I could be a ball playing middle, sort of like what Michael Morgan does in Origin for Queensland. The game is a bit quicker now so you can play a bit flatter and get out of dummy half more, which I don’t mind doing.
“We will work something out there. All I know is I will put myself in the frame to be selected every week in the 17.”
Reynolds said Marshall would be an asset to the Souths, even if he didn’t play, as players could learn from his experience.
However, Reynolds also expects the Kiwi superstar to push for a starting berth.
“I think he is great for the club. It gives us a bit more depth, it gives us opportunities to tinker with a few more things and it is exciting.
It keeps me and Cody honest, we can’t get too comfortable, obviously we know he is there behind us and he is great for the young players.
“He is an idol for many of the boys and from them growing up and watching him so to now see him in the change rooms, and how professional he is around the place, will drive standards and they look to that.”