Modern day legend of Rugby League, Benji Marshall, has called time on his incredible career, retiring from the sport today.
Marshall, Rabbitohs first grade player number 1167, played 19 seasons in the NRL, making his debut for the Wests Tigers in 2003 and playing his final game in the 2021 Grand Final for South Sydney against the Penrith Panthers at Suncorp Stadium.
Holding Kiwi player number 717, he has represented New Zealand in 31 Test matches (21 as captain), won an NRL premiership in 2005 with the Wests Tigers and played 346 NRL games for the Rabbitohs, Tigers, Dragons and Broncos which is a record for a New Zealand-born player.
He also had a short stint in Super Rugby with the Auckland Blues in 2014 but quickly returned to his main sporting love of Rugby League.
Marshall, 36, was part of the Kiwis team that won the World Cup in 2008, was awarded the Golden Boot as the best player in the world in 2010, was crowned the Dally M five-eighth of the year in 2011 and was announced as the RLIF five-eighth of the year in 2009 and 2011.
Marshall inspired Rugby League players young and old with his mesmerising style of play. His ability to step off both feet at pace, his ability to throw no-look cut-out passes to open teammates, his willingness to put his body on the line in defence and his charismatic personality, have made him a favourite player to thousands of Rugby League players, Members and supporters from all clubs and nations alike.
Marshall is regarded by many as one of the next New Zealand-born candidates to be named in the NRL Hall of Fame and is in line to become the first New Zealander to be awarded Immortal status in the sport.
Marshall reflected on his amazing career this week.
“I feel privileged and grateful to have had the career that I have had,” Marshall said.
“I started as just a young kid from Whakatane who was chasing his dreams and will leave as a better man who reached those dreams.”
“I cannot thank Rugby League enough for everything it has given me.”
“I am extremely proud of my career. I’m proud of the longevity of playing 19 seasons, proud of winning a premiership, proud to represent my country and to win a World Cup, and I’m proud of winning a Golden Boot too.”
“But the thing of which I’m most proud is the countless times I have had to pick myself up and fight back from the many setbacks that were thrown at me throughout my career.”
“I want to thank the Wests Tigers, the St George Illawarra Dragons, the Brisbane Broncos and, of course, the South Sydney Rabbitohs for the opportunity to play for those great clubs. Special mention goes to the Tigers where I am a Life Member and it’s a club that has always been a big part of my life.”
“Thank you to South Sydney for allowing me this opportunity to finish my career this way on a high and to go out on my terms.”
“Thanks to all of the referees and volunteers of our great game. Thank you to all of the players I have played with and against. Thank you to all of my coaches over my career, especially Tim Sheens and Wayne Bennett, who have had the biggest impact on me.”
“I want to thank the fans. It has been a pleasure to be able to play for you guys. Thank you for embracing the way that I played the game. To show my stuff on the big stage in front of you guys is the greatest feeling ever. To run out to a roaring crowd, there is nothing like it. That’s what I will miss the most, playing for you guys.”
“I would like to thank my family. My parents Mick and Annalie Doherty and my mum Lydia Marshall, my brothers Jordan and Jeremy, my extended Marshall family and my friends.”
“I would like to thank my kids, Fox and Ever, who are my ‘why’.”
“Most importantly, I want to thank my wife Zoe who has been my rock, my constant source of support, for always believing in me and riding the highs and lows next to me. She has always sacrificed so much in order for me to continue living my dreams.”
“I’ve got no doubts that I could have played on again next year, but now is the right time for me to call time on my football career and move on to the next adventure. Now it’s time for me to put my family first.”
Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly paid tribute to one of the greats of the game. “Benji Marshall has left an indelible mark not only on our Club, but on the entire sport over the past two decades. I’m sure he has left a positive imprint on the Tigers, Dragons and Broncos too, particularly the Tigers where he spent so many years captaining their club, guiding them to the 2005 premiership,” Mr Solly said.
“He has proudly captained his country, captained at club level and represented his Maori heritage. He has been an idol to so many aspiring footballers, boys and girls, over the years and it was an honour to have a player of his standing represent our Club.”
“It’s not only the quality football that he has played on the field for us in 2021, but it’s the knowledge he has passed on to everyone in our squad, from the seasoned veterans to the rookies. He hasn’t put a foot wrong off the field either, connecting deeply with our Members and corporate partners throughout the year, despite the tyranny of distance at times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“He brought everything that we envisioned he would bring to our Club and more, and I know South Sydney has also left a mark on him too.”
“We wish Benji, Zoe, Fox and Ever all the best with whatever comes next for him and his family. He will always be welcome at the Rabbitohs and they will always be part of the Rabbitohs’ family.”
Text courtesy of the South Sydney Rabbitohs