Heroes Aren’t Supposed To Walk Away

Benji Marshall had a handshake agreement with the Wests Tigers to get a contract upgrade, and extension that would see him finish his career as a one club man.

When the Wests Tigers went back on their word, Benj Marshall has a big decision to make.

He could take less money than originally intended, and for a shorter contract left, or he could leave the only club he had ever played for.

When Marshall came back from a holiday in Bali and told the world he wanted to leave the Tigers, that he wanted to walk away from the game, and that he wanted to play Rugby League, he let all of us down.

This isn’t about the Wests Tigers. I personally don’t believe that a shambolic mess of a club like the Wests Tigers deserves a classy player like Benji Marshall. I have no doubt that it is in Benji Marshall’s best interests to walk away from the Tigers and start afresh.

The move to Rugby Union….that just kills me.

Had Benji Marshall told the Wests Tigers to shove their contract extension up their arse, signed with another clubs and spent every single week showing Tigers management what they are missing out on, most Rugby League fans would have loved that.

Players get pressured to be loyal to the club they play for every single day. They have coaches, administrators, former players, friends and family telling them to take less mine and stay where they are. Don’t be like everyone else. Be loyal. Everyone loves you. You don’t need to look anywhere else.

As soon as a club doesn’t want a player any more they will get rid of them without a second thought. Contracts mean nothing. The coach will freeze them out. Former players will be dragged out to tell them they are not wanted. Fans will turn on them.

Loyalty….it is a loaded, one sided relationship. A word used to make players think they should asks for less money from their own club. The club hat should value them more than any other club does.

A number of times we have heard Rugby League players switch to Rugby Union and say they could never play against the club they play for. The club they love. The club that showed a lack of loyalty to them. The club hat tried to undermine them and under value them.

For some players, they feel as though moving to Rugby Union is their only option.

When a star leaves Rugby League to play Rugby Union, it is a blow to the game. There is no way around that. People can talk about youngsters stepping up and the game moving on all the like. The fact remains, Rugby League becomes weaker and Rugby Union becomes stronger.

It doesn’t make Rugby Union any better to watch, but it gets them attention. It gets them mainstream attention. Granted, it’s not much attention, but it’s more than the would have got with their usual private school production line from north Sydney.

There’s not doubt Benji Marshall feels as though he is doing the right thing by not going to another Rugby League club. By not playing against the Tigers. The problem is that in the eyes of people that look up to him, going to play Rugby Union is the worst thing he could possibly do.

In Rugby League, you earn your respect when things go against you. You earn your respect when you win against the odds. No sport embraces the under dog quite like Rugby League. We want to see triumph in the face of adversity. We want to see out great players come back and win against the odds. That’s how we know they are the great players!

We watched Benji Marshall burst onto the scene as a young kid that was too small to make it in the big league. We saw him come back from shoulder injury after shoulder injury. We saw him fearlessly lead the Wests Tigers to Grand Final victory. We watched in awe as he tore teams apart and won games single handedly.

Over the course of his Rugby League career, Benii Marshall sis it all. He was a great player and he became a hero to many people who loved seeing him triumph against the odds.

That’s why Benji Marshall’s decision to walk away from Rugby League hits so hard. Heroes aren’t supposed to walk away.

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