By Mary Maidiotis
St George Illawarra Dragons halfback Benji Marshall is proud to be playing in the annual ANZAC Day fixture against the Sydney Roosters, at Allianz Stadium, Moore Park on Saturday.
Marshall, 30, says that although he is yet to have played in an ANZAC Day game, he understands it will be emotionally-charged and a reminder to the team of how lucky they are to be able to play rugby league.
The Dragons have won their last five games in a row, but the halfback admits that the side needs to perfect the little things in order to improve.
“It’s a big occasion, I haven’t played in one of these games before so I’m really looking forward to it since a lot of the boys have spoken about it and how much emotion is involved around it,” said Marshall.
“It’s obviously what’s happened 100 years ago and what’s been provided for us now to be in the position we are is massive, and to hear that firsthand from an ex-services person before the game is going to be pretty emotional for the boys and for myself, so it’s something I’m really looking forward to being involved in.
“Playing rugby league is often compared to going into battle but the difference is that they didn’t have much of a choice, so we’re pretty lucky in the sense that we get to do what we do for a living and it just means that much more to us when you see the position that they were in back then.
“It’s pleasing to get the two points, but we’d prefer to do be doing it a bit easier than the way we are at the moment.
“We’re finding ways to win games when we’re not playing at our best which is probably the positive thing, but we’ve still got a lot to work on and improve on which sets us up for a good week of training and something to work towards for the weekend.
“The problem with us is that we’re not creating a lot of attacking opportunities, we got down into the opposition half about 10 times in the last two weeks and we’ve scored on seven of those occasions so we need to create more opportunities there and hopefully convert those into points.
“The lack of attack is a bit of a reflection on the kicking game and field position, as well as the errors out of our half, which is probably letting us down a little bit.
“When you’re not traveling too bad, you try and find little things to work on, so there are things we’ve been picky about, but if we want to be the best team in the comp, we’ve got to improve.
“We’ve done a lot of defensive work in the preseason, a lot of one-on-one stuff, a lot of contact work, and I’m feeling pretty good within myself, confidence-wise with my shoulders, so that’s been a big factor.
“As a team, everyone just keeps turning up for each other and that’s the bond that we have both on and off the field and I think it’s showing in our on-field performances.
“I’ve got an immediate goal to be the best I can here for the Dragons, I still feel like I’ve got a lot of things to work on and improve on so if representative honours come my way, I’ll take it, but if not, I’ll be happy to have the week off.
“You always strive for the highest honour which is representing your country, so if it comes, it comes, if it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world.
“The Roosters are coming off the back of three losses so they’re going to be firing and ready to go and we’re just going to have to match that.
“It will be a big game for Ben Creagh playing his 250th game, and apart from what he does on the field, off the field he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.
“He’s a great leader of men and someone who’s well-respected within the game and not just from his teammates but the opposition and I’m just happy he’s in our team.”