NRL superstar Benji Marshall has categorically ruled out leaving Wests Tigers, promising to fight his way back into the starting line-up following his shock axing.
Three weeks serving as 18th man after making way for Josh Reynolds has fuelled speculation that 35-year-old Marshall will pursue opportunities elsewhere.
But the one-time world player of the year is having none of it.
“I actually can’t believe we’re talking about this, to be honest. Not once have I said I wanted to leave or indicated that I wasn’t happy,” Marshall told NRL 360 on Tuesday night.
“The fact of the matter is that I got dropped for not playing well enough and, if anybody who knows me knows, I’m going to fight my hardest to get back into the team and, mark my words, I’ll be back there by the end of the year.”
Marshall was among the Dally M leaders before Tigers coach Michael Maguire dropped the former New Zealand Test captain after a golden-point loss to the lowly Gold Coast in round four.
He manfully admits his defence wasn’t up to scratch.
“At the start I thought it might have had to do more with game management but the coach pointed out a few things that he wasn’t happy with defensively – a few missed tackles,” Marshall said of his fall from grace.
“It’s not the fact that I can’t defend. Last year I was really strong in defence. I’ve played four games this year and if I get the opportunity to be back this year, I’ll be better defensively.
“It’s a game of two halves. My attack’s been awesome and defensively I’ve got to be better.”
Insisting he and Maguire retain a “great” player-coach relationship, Marshall is confident he hasn’t played his last game for the club in which he steered to the 2005 premiership.
“I can’t control what happens with the team and what happens with the halves in our team, but I’m pretty much in a position where players have to play bad or get injured until I play,” he said.
“Or until the coach decides to play only three forwards on the bench and carry a utility.
“But what I am going to do is control what I can control and I obviously feel I can still have an impact on the team’s performance without playing by what I do throughout the week.
“I’ll just push the coach every week at training to make sure he notices the things that I’m doing to be back in the side.”
And Marshall won’t be death-riding his Tigers teammates for another opportunity.
“We need to make the semis,” he said.
“And if my opportunity comes in the semis, I’d rather that than not playing semi-final football.
“Let me just reassure all our fans and supporters that I’m dedicated to the Tigers and committed – fully.”