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Benji Marshall has declared he will be ready to step into the head coaching role at the Wests Tigers 12 months early.
Marshall also wants to stop information forever leaking out of the Tigers, will continue to lean on Tim Sheens, Wayne Bennett, Craig Bellamy and Todd Payten for advice, has no issues with head of recruitment Scott Fulton, and nominated rookie fullback Jahream Bula as the one player who “epitomises everything that I want Wests Tigers to look like in the future”.
The 38-year-old fan favourite fronted media for the first time on Friday ahead of the Tigers’ clash against the Dolphins.
Sheens and the Tigers on Wednesday decided to go their separate ways at the end of the season, and fast-track Marshall’s ascendancy to the top job 12 months early.
While Sheens remains the head coach the remainder of this season, he encouraged Marshall to get in front of the cameras.
Marshall, the 2005 premiership winner who has run most of the field sessions all season – and on a lot of occasions still looked the best halves option at the club during opposed sessions – thanked Sheens for his guidance, but was adamant he is up to the task.
Tim Sheens, Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall talk shop at Thursday’s training sessionCredit: Rhett Wyman/SMH
“I will back myself – that’s what I have always done in my life,” Marshall said.
“No matter the challenge, no matter if it may seem impossible to some people, in my head it is possible. I really value Tim’s guidance, but when the time comes for me to step up, which will be next year I’ll be ready.
“I could’ve stayed in TV or radio. The difference for me is there is an absolute purpose in coaching that I really enjoy. And to be able to do it back at the club where I spent so much time playing, it’s actually a privilege for me.
“It’s not about the money, it’s not about the challenge, it’s about what I get out of it because I really enjoy it. I’ll bring that enjoyment to work every day, and try and turn those results around next season.”
Fulton was poached from Manly by Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe and chairman Lee Hagipantelis without Sheens and Marshall’s knowledge. They immediately clashed over whether to sign Josh Schuster.
Marshall, however, said there were no issues, and even if there were dramas in the future, the Tigers needed to do their best to keep it in-house, which is what happens most of the time at the powerhouse clubs.
“Everyone writes different things, don’t they?” Marshall said when asked about Fulton.
“I guess if you look at the people who have signed in the last few weeks, since Scott and I have worked together, there’s been some really good signings from us working together.
“So I think that puts that stuff to bed. Everyone wants to know everything, but I’m at the point where that can stay internal.
Marshall nominated Jahream Bula as the player who can help restore the Tigers to their former glory.Credit: Louise Kennerley
“Because we’re losing it amplifies [gossip]. So results on the field will help dictate that and will turn that around.”
Next year the Tigers lose Luke Brooks, who will not play against the Dolphins because of a calf injury, but the club has signed Jayden Sullivan from St George Illawarra, lured Aidan Sezer back from England, and secured the Sea Eagles’ Fainu brothers, Samuela and Latu.
Bula has been one of the few shining lights at the Tigers, and Marshall said of the No. 1: “The thing I like about Jahream is his potential is untouched at the moment. He’s still a lot to learn about the game, but you look at all the good things he’s done in saving more tries than he’s scoring, which is an attitude thing.
“He epitomises everything that I want Wests Tigers to look like in the future, he’s a long-term prospect there’s no doubt.”
Api Koroisau will play in the halves with Daine Laurie on Saturday in Brooks’ absence.
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