Benji Marshall’s future remains up in the air after Canberra Raiders became the latest team to insist they were not about to sign the 29-year-old former Wests Tigers star.
Marshall is looking for a new NRL team after enduring an ill-fated stint in rugby union, featuring in only six matches for Auckland Blues before deciding he wanted to return to the 13-man game.
Last month Cronulla Sharks were linked with Marshall and appeared to be willing to hand him a three-year deal, but those rumours now appear to have subsided.
And now the Raiders insist they will try to get the best out of their youngsters rather than hand Marshall a lucrative contract, although they do still remain interested in signing Melbourne back-rower Kevin Proctor.
St George Illawarra now appear to be the favourites to secure Marshall’s signature, although the Storm and New Zealand Warriors have also been linked with him.
“Absolutely not, [Marshall] hasn’t even been discussed,” said Raiders chief executive Don Furner.
“His name has never come up and, as far as I know, no one has had a meeting with him or about him.”
The Raiders have handed new deals to the likes of Shaun Fensom, Joel Edwards, Shannon Boyd, Jack Wighton and Dane Tilse and are also keen on extending the contracts of centre Matt Allwood and prop Paul Vaughan.
“The focus for us at the moment is retention, which it is always is,” added Furner. “I’ve got to sit down with [coach] Ricky [Stuart] in the next couple weeks and go over the list.”
Veteran front-rower Brett White will announce before the end of this month whether he plans to carry on playing, while the futures of Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Reece Robinson are also up in the air as they are out of contract at the end of the season.
Marshall spent a decade with Wests Tigers, featuring in more than 200 games for the team, before deciding to try his luck in rugby union.
He signed a two-year deal with the Blues in August 2013 and made his debut for Sir John Kirwan’s side when coming off the replacements bench in a match against the Highlanders in February.
He scored his first try for the Blues against the Lions in March but was released from his contract on 23rd April having made one start and five substitute appearances for Kirwan’s side.
Marshall, who played in 25 Tests for New Zealand and helped the Kiwis to victory in the 2008 World Cup, becoming captain the following season, had been unhappy with Kirwan’s decision to demote him from the senior squad and make him play in the development team for the rest of the season.
Marshall’s manager, Martin Tauber, said at the time: “It just hasn’t worked out, it is disappointing. He’s not had the game-time he’d like.”
Tauber has ruled out a move to Super League for Marshall and hopes to secure a deal with an NRL club before the 30th June deadline for registering players.