Benji might stay in NRL - via Japan - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Benji might stay in NRL - via Japan

By Todd Balym 05/02/2009 07:22:47 PM Comments (0)

Wests Tigers players won't oppose plans for Benji Marshall to miss part of the 2010 NRL season for a stint in Japanese rugby union if it means keeping the star playmaker at the club.

New Tigers captain Robbie Farah said on Thursday he'd be open to the idea of allowing Marshall to miss pre-season training and a couple of regular season games for a lucrative summer playing in Asia.

"If it means keeping him at the club I'm sure everyone will be pretty open-minded about it," said Farah.

It has been reported Marshall could earn up to $1 million for just 10 games in Japan and his manager is currently investigating those opportunities.

The Tigers remain in negotiations to extend Marshall's contract but are waiting until the Kiwi Test star has examined all of his offshore options before making an offer.

"At the moment his manager is negotiating with us as if there is virtually no proposal (from Japan)," said Tigers coach Tim Sheens.

"That possibility (however) is holding things up. We're in no hurry and neither are they."

The problem facing Marshall and the Tigers is that NRL contracts forbid players to participate in rival codes, as former Penrith captain Craig Gower learned in 2006 when his Italian rugby stint was blocked.

Marshall, however, can circumvent the NRL rules by letting his current deal expire in October and then not re-sign with the Tigers until he returns from Japan.

As an uncontracted player, Marshall would be free to play anywhere in the world before returning to the NRL.

But that is a risky move for a player with a history of serious injuries and Sheens admitted he would be wary of Marshall playing in a competition the club knows nothing about.

"I know nothing about what they do there and what the level of competition is or what the fatigue factor would be on him, let alone the actual dates of the competition," he said.

"(But) we can't do anything until something is put in front of us."

Tigers chief executive Scott Longmuir indicated he would be willing to explore all possibilities to keep Marshall, with the view of pairing him with ex-Canberra halfback Todd Carney in 2010.

Carney remains de-registered from the NRL after his axing from the Raiders but is firmly in the Tigers' sights for next year - giving them enough firepower should Marshall miss the opening rounds.

Meanwhile, Farah insisted he would play at least one trial match before the NRL season begins despite having off-season back surgery.

Farah wasn't named to play South Sydney at Redfern Oval on Sunday but is pushing for a chance to face the Roosters in the Foundation Cup on February 21.

"We've got the Foundation Cup in a couple of weeks and I haven't ruled myself out of that one yet," said Farah.

"We have Shellharbour the week before the competition starts so I would like close to a full game against them.

"At this stage I think I will have a trial under my belt."

The Tigers are celebrating their 10th anniversary in 2009 and will mark the occasion with a new predominantly white jersey to be debuted on Sunday.

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