By Martin Gabor (NRL.com)
Dragons halfback Benji Marshall says his body is in good shape despite an injury-disrupted start to the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
Marshall has been limited to just six games in 2016 due to a hamstring strain that flared up either side of the Round 5 clash in North Queensland, but appeared unencumbered in the return clash against the Cowboys before last week's bye.
In a positive sign for Dragons fans, Marshall ran for a season-high 85 metres and was able to kick freely despite the dewy conditions against last year's premiers.
"I felt really good actually. There was no soreness in the hammies or back or anything like that. If anything I just had sore shoulders from making a few more tackles than usual," Marshall quipped.
"I had a bit of a program last week where I had to train Tuesday and Friday at around game speed and I felt pretty good."
The 31-year-old is no stranger to injury after repeated shoulder and knee setbacks plagued his first few seasons in the NRL with the Wests Tigers.
Marshall said he was still feeling the effects of those injuries but conceded there was no point focussing on the past as that wouldn't help him going forward.
"I've had shoulder after shoulder injuries before," he said.
"You can look around and ask 'why does this keep happening to me?'
"But the harder your work the better you're going to get. I think we've done a lot of hard work this year and hopefully that puts me in good stead for the rest of the season.
"The thing with injury is – and what people probably don't know – is you can have an injury 10 or 12 weeks ago and you need to work on it for the rest of the season.
"I suppose it's just one of those things that you have to keep building up. I'm still doing shoulder exercises from my last shoulder reconstruction which was in 2008."
In spite of his wretched run of injuries over the years, Marshall said he had full faith in the Dragons medical staff to help him return to full fitness in the coming weeks.
"You can't plan for what happens in footy when it comes to injuries and stuff but you can sort of plan with your rehab and stuff," Marshall said.
"The training staff have given me a pretty good rehab program over the past couple of weeks so I'm feeling pretty confident.
"Most of the stuff we do here…is planned by them (the medical staff) and I've got full trust in what they put me through. I feel like we're making strides and getting back to where I want to be."
Marshall will have to be at peak fitness when the Dragons take on the Bulldogs in Monday night football to complete Round 14 of the NRL Telstra Premiership.
It will be a grudge rematch following the manic ending to their elimination final from last year's finals series that saw the lead change several times in a see-sawing final few minutes before a Josh Reynolds field goal ended the contest in golden point.
Marshall would have loved to have been the hero for his side on that occasion but he was on the sidelines after sustaining an ankle injury in an awkward 52nd minute tackle close to the line.
"It burns a bit because that's where we got put out of the semis," the veteran playmaker said.
"We're a different team this year and they're a different team.
"They've been one of the benchmarks this year on the field and their forward pack has been pretty impressive so it's going to be a tough ask and we'll just have to match that."