South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett says he would sign unwanted Wests Tigers veteran Benji Marshall, but there is no position for him at the Rabbitohs.
Bennett’s support for Marshall comes only days after his advice prompted the Tigers champion to continue his career despite the Tigers not offering him another deal.
The super coach refused to discuss the details of his conversation with Marshall, but he believes the Kiwi star can play on if his mind is willing.
Bennett said he would even offer Marshall a career lifeline if he could.
“I would if there was an opportunity here, but there isn’t an opportunity here so that can’t happen,” declared Bennett, who coached Marshall at Brisbane in 2017 and built a close relationship with him during New Zealand’s successful World Cup campaign in 2008.
“We’ve all seen Benji for a long time, so I don’t think I need to tell everybody about him, but I will tell you what you don’t see.
“He is an outstanding bloke, and he was outstanding with the players that we had at the Broncos at the time.
“We had a lot of young players there, and I can’t give him enough accolades for the contribution he made.
“He didn’t get a lot of regular first grade, but he just respected being part of the team, and he got a great deal of respect from the players because of his attitude, professionalism and the way he helped a lot of them.”
Asked if Marshall had more to give, Bennett was blunt.
“It is not about what I think, it is about what he thinks,” he said.
“It is his body; he knows what he has done in the game and where he is at in life.
“The club has made its decision and he has got a decision to make himself, and I just wish him well with it.”
Bennett also weighed into the future of Melbourne captain Cameron Smith ahead of Friday’s clash against the Storm.
Smith is yet to decide if he will play on next season, and the super coach is backing the master hooker to make the correct decision.
“One thing I know about champions is that they won’t embarrass themselves,” he said.
“They never stay too long, the real champion players of any sport. If you follow them closely enough, they know when their time is up and they will take that oppoerunity becuase they are not used to playing well and they can’t handle it personally when it happens to them.”
In team news, Bennett confirmed Corey Allan and Alex Johnston could swap between fullback and wing against Melbourne on Friday night.
Johnston has been named in the No.1 jumper, but Allan has trained at fullback during the week.
“Both of them are quite capable players in that (fullback) position,” he said.
“We could do a little bit of mixing and matching if he wanted to, but at this stage that is where we are going.”
Souths captain Adam Reynolds will celebrate his 200th NRL game when the Rabbitohs host Melbourne at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
Bennett rapt Reynolds for his standout form this season, reserving special praise for his goal kicking.
“He is up there with the absolute best, probably the best the game has ever seen,” Bennett said.
“His exhibition there a couple of weeks ago was just unbelievable the way he kicked from the sideline and they all went in the same direction.
“To do that five in a row is pretty rare, so I think he is one of the all-time great kickers of the game.
“But I’ve been pleased with his form all season.
“You guys didn’t realise it, but that is OK, you aren’t the coach and that is my job.
“He has accepted the responsibility of captain really well, and he leads from the front.”
Souths will be without Latrell Mitchell for the rest of the season after he ruptured his hamstring, but Bennett remains confident about his team’s premiership aspirations.
“Things are still looking good if we all play well,” he said.
“Latrell is one of 17 players, and he is a wonderful player and a loss to us, but we’ve lost other players and someone else is taking their place and doing well.”