By Rachael Price
St George Illawarra Dragons halfback Benji Marshall is putting emotions aside when he faces his former club Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday.
The Keebra Park junior scored his first try with the Red-and-Whites at the beginning of the week and hopes to improve on his game to come away with the win.
The 29-year-old is not intimidated by his former club’s recent performance against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs but is determined to gain the two points for the Red V to begin their march to the finals.
“Even though we didn’t get the win, we performed well out there and we can definitely take positives from the game,” said Marshall.
“I was really pumped to score my first try with Dragons; I had a bit of a tough week after I lost one of my cousins to cancer so to get the try tonight was a big thing for me.
“I’m trying to put my best foot forward for the team to get the two points; I felt I was a bit shaky out there so I want to improve and be better.
“We’ll be prepared to face the Tigers on Sunday, it was a great effort to defeat the Bulldogs.
“It’s going to be a different experience playing against the Tigers, but I’ll think about that when I get to it.
“Of course I still have a lot of mates at the club, but this is footy and it’s not about friendship; for me it’s about getting the two points for the team to get into the top eight.
“Heading into Sunday I’m going to train as I usually do and treat it as any other game; it’s not about emotions for me, it’s about playing for the Red V.
“I’ve played enough big and emotional games to know what it will be like but that won’t detract from how I will play out there."
The New Zealand international is honoured to pass on his expertise to younger players in the side and paid particular attention to Wests halfback Luke Brooks while he was at the club.
“I pride myself on passing on what experience I have to assist the younger players wherever I can," said Marshall.
“I have been that young guy before and have had players like Scott Prince, Mark O’Niell and John Skandalis helping me out and they have inspired me to assist where I can.
“The Tigers are a very young side and I knew those younger players were going to be strong performers; while I was there I tried to help them out and it’s nothing different to what I’m doing at the Dragons and passing on what I can.
“We have a very young side so I like that I can provide my knowledge and lead them in the right direction.
“I feel a bit sorry for Luke Brooks because of the pressure he’s receiving from everyone; before I left I said that there was a lot of pressure placed on him to be the next Andrew Johns, which is a big call.
“Luke doesn’t need that pressure; he’s a kid who’s in his first season in first-grade who’s performing very well and he doesn’t need expectations placed on him like that.
“Brooks may end up being the next Joey Johns but for now he doesn’t need that pressure."
The 2010 Golden Boot winner knows emotions will be high and is uncertain how he will be received when he faces his old team at their home ground.
“I’ve been trying to focus more on myself; I’ve stayed away from the media and tried to focus on footy which is my number one priority," said Marshall.
“It’s probably the first time I’ve ever been a little bit selfish like that and tried to perform the best I can.
“I’ve had enough worrying about people in the past and trying to keep everyone happy; I can only control myself and I want to play the best I can for the Red V.
“I can see that I have matured over the past few weeks and become more honest with myself and those around me.
“I’ve come the realisation that I can’t be the player that I used to be with the flashy plays and the massive steps but my knowledge of the game is what can help our team the most.
“I’m not sure how Tigers fans will greet me when we play them on Sunday; those 12 years were the best years of my life, I won a Premiership there and made some great friends.
“There’s a lot of emotion in this game and sometimes people can be a bit disrespectful when it comes to issues like this, but I’m not the first person to leave a club and I’m certain I won’t be the last.
“I’m just going to focus on my footy and play well for the team on the day.”