A ‘washed up’ Benji Marshall has denied he’s set to join Cronulla but admits his promise to not play for another NRL team than the Wests Tigers was premature.
Marshall was officially granted a release from his Super Rugby contract with the Blues on Wednesday after just two months of playing the 15-man game but said he’d not spoken to any other parties about his future employment.
“It’s pretty funny how I could join the Sharks without talking to them,” Marshall said in Auckland.
“I said to my manager I don’t want to talk to anyone and I don’t want to know anything until this (the contract release) is out of the way, out of respect for the Blues and New Zealand Rugby.
“I’ve got nowhere to go at the moment.”
The Sharks have several ex-Tigers players on their books including Marshall’s close friend Beau Ryan in addition to Bryce Gibbs, Blake Ayshford, Andrew Fifita, John Morris and Chris Heighington.
This has sparked speculation he will become a Cronulla player, but Marshall denied any deal has been struck.
“I don’t even know what the future holds,” he said.
“To be honest I don’t really have that long left, and I want to make sure it’s a place where I’m going to be happy, where it’s a good culture and where I think I could play my best football.”
“I’d prefer it to be in Sydney, but until I speak to clubs and know who’s interested in a 29-year-old washed-up rugby player – or league player now – we’ll see.”
Marshall is arguably the Tigers’ greatest-ever player and inspired the joint-venture to their only premiership in 2005.
His request for an early release to play rugby last July was greeted with huge shock and dismay by fans and led to him vowing to never don another club’s colours.
Earlier this week, Wests Tigers chief executive Grant Mayer closed the door on a possible return for Marshall, but in a statement on Wednesday said he wouldn’t prevent him joining another club.
Part of Marshall’s release agreement stated he couldn’t sign for any of the Tigers’ NRL rivals until 2016 and Mayer said they would seek some financial recompense when he does return.
“We believe that the NRL is stronger with Benji Marshall and we will not stand in his way from returning to the competition,” Mayer said.
“Benji will always hold a special place in our heart and we believe he would be a great addition to any club in the future.
“On finalising a playing agreement with a new team, Wests Tigers will have a separate discussion with that club on a set of terms that will be commercial in confidence.”
Marshall admitted his stance about never facing the Tigers was premature, but understood the club’s decision to not offer him the chance of a return.
“When I made those comments I was obviously emotional,” he said.
“I hadn’t played for any other club before.
“I’ve still got a massive soft spot for the Tigers, but it would be rude of me to think I could go back in there with how good they’re going and the young guys they’ve produced.
“I’ve got to move on from that stage. They’ve moved on, and so will I.”