In the first of a series of exclusive video interviews with new recruit Benji Marshall, we chat with him about the opportunity of joining the Blues, the reason he moved to rugby union, where he thinks he might fit into the backline and what the most challenging aspects of making the code switch will be.
Come back tomorrow to hear about Benji’s thoughts on playing ITM Cup, Sevens, who he’s mates with in the Blues, working with the likes of Sir Graham Henry and Mick Byrne and what his aspirations are in rugby union.
Welcome to the Blues Benji, you must be really excited about this new opportunity
Yes I am, first of all to get the opportunity to move home is a big thing for me, my grandfather’s still there and about six or seven of my aunties and uncles are still there so I suppose to get the chance to see family again and to move home which is something I haven’t done for 13 years is something I’m really excited about.†
What made you switch to rugby union?
It’s been well documented what happened at the Tigers with contract negotiations and that sort of stuff and it’s sort of the first time that I’ve actually been able to have a reason to change to rugby union, I’ve always felt like my home was going to be at the Tigers but with all this stuff happening it’s given me this opportunity to fulfil a childhood dream of maybe representing the All Blacks.†
If you want to play for the All Blacks obviously you have to play in New Zealand so that’s part of my decision and not only that, how professional the Blues were with their negotiations and what they fronted me with their vision for the next few years was a driving force on what made me make the decision†
So it was their professional approach that really attracted you to the Blues?
Absolutely, the professionalism of not only the coach but at board level with Andy Dalton was a big factor. They turned up with a great presentation and showed me the future of the club over the next few years and I really think that Sir John Kirwan is such a great guy and highly respected in all the circles of rugby and not only that but just such a good guy to be around. I like surrounding myself with good people and he gave me a lot of honest truths and a lot of motivators to make me want to succeed and I think that’s important as a player and something I need.
While you have been playing rugby league, do you still keep an eye on Super Rugby and the All Blacks?
Yes I do actually. I played rugby union all my life growing up until I moved to Australia, I didn’t play league until I was 15 so I’ve always followed the All Blacks and kept track of games here and there and it’s always been great to watch. New Zealand rugby has been so successful over the past 10 years and that’s part of the reason why I want to be a part of that.
Have you thought about where you might like to feature in the Blues backline?
I don’t really want to limit myself to a certain position yet because I think it’s important for me in making the transition to learn the game, learn the rules and get in there and train in different positions and see where I fit in properly so if I had a preference it would probably be 10, 12 or 15 but until I get into training I can’t really pinpoint that position yet.
What do you think will be the most challenging aspects of switching to rugby union?
It’s definitely going to be hard work, no doubt, and it’s definitely something I’m ready for, but probably just in terms of the play the ball. With league you get up and play the ball and you get a little bit of time to get onside whereas with rugby it’s just a continual flow of rucks and mauls and instead of putting the ball between my legs I’m going to have to be turning it back and putting the ball back which is going to be a little bit different but I still remember doing that when I was playing back in my teenage years so I think with a bit of practice hopefully I can go good.
Tell us a bit about your rugby experience growing up in New Zealand
I played since I was five-years-old growing up in Whakatane and everyone’s dream in New Zealand growing up is to become an All Black. I remember, I used to love guys like Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall because he had the same last name as me, Christian Cullen, Jonah Lomu was massive when I was young so I have all those memories of watching those guys play and wanting to be like those guys. That dream obviously changed a bit when I started playing rugby league and I got to represent the Kiwis which was one of the best times of my life and hopefully if I perform well enough that I can get that opportunity with the All Blacks.
Tune in later for more exclusive Benji Marshall content!