”Sitting in my room in shock, I just wanted to let you know that I love you like a brother. We’ve been through a lot together, good and bad, and no matter what happens, we’re mates for life. Can’t wait to play the rest of the year with you.”
With those words, Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah responded to Benji Marshall’s confirmation that he was leaving the club. Marshall, then, responded by breaking down. ”He was the hardest person to have to tell,” Marshall said.
”The first phone call I made was to Robbie, and he’s in the middle of an Origin camp – I didn’t want to disturb him, and I said, ‘We’ll talk about it on Thursday when you’re finished’.
”But he wanted to know, so I had to tell him. He was spewing. I didn’t get a lot of time to get around to everyone. But I did get to call Robbie first, and he heard it from me first. I was happy that I got that chance to tell him. It was hard, because we started together, and we thought we were going to finish together.”
Telling his teammates that he was leaving was one thing. But when his phone started buzzing with text messages, including Farah’s, Marshall admitted he ”lost it”.
”It was one thing writing the message to them, but seeing their reactions, and the messages back, was the hard part,” he said. ”At the end of the day, the club’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than the coaches, it’s bigger than the people who run it.
”It’s about keeping the club alive. As far as I’m concerned, my decision is a win for them too … with the young talent they’ve got coming through, they can invest their time and their money into re-signing those boys, which is what they wanted to do.”
And on Thursday, the change continued. On the eve of the clash with the Warriors at Leichhardt Oval, the club announced the re-signings of Tim Simona (until the end of 2015) and Marika Koroibete (until 2014), their salary cap having been eased. The club is also likely to be in a better position to re-sign young halves Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses to long-term deals.
”Not only only did I believe it was time for a change for me, but I think the club needed a change as well,” Marshall said. ”I felt that change could be good for the club.
”With the reality of me being there for another three years, those younger guys might not have wanted to wait around three years to stay at the club. And they’re that talented that they could have had a great opportunity to prove themselves, and play next year.”
With a switch to rugby union beckoning, Marshall will not be playing with the club next year. Yet he was adamant, as was his coach Mick Potter, that he would see out the season, despite Ben Elias’ comments on Channel 10 on Wednesday that he should quit now.
”I’m not going to go out and have a running verbal battle with Benny Elias – he’s entitled to think whatever he likes,” Marshall said. ”But he’s not around the club seeing what I do at training, or how I am with the boys, or what I’m trying to achieve there. He doesn’t see that.
”I won’t be walking out now, unless they force me. But I’ve got confirmation from [chief operating officer] Grant Mayer that that’s not going to happen.”
Thus, Marshall will play his last Leichhardt Oval match on Friday night, yet he said he was ”trying not to think about that, to be honest”. ”I don’t want to make it about being last this, last that. I just want to win games,” he said. ”Realistically, I believe we’re a chance of still making the semis.”
Asked what reaction he expected from Tigers supporters, Marshall said: ”I just hope out of respect for what I’ve done for the club in the past, and my loyalty to the club, I hope it’s positive. Obviously I’d love for the fans to be supportive and still cheer me. If they don’t, I can understand their frustration and their anger.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.