Marshall comes full circle

Benji Marshall. Photo: Getty Images
Benji Marshall. Photo: Getty Images
Benji Marshall's incredible test renaissance has come full circle, with his elevation to captain of his country.

The last time the Kiwis played the Kangaroos in Australia, Marshall was playing reserve grade at the Brisbane Broncos.

It was May 2017.

The chances of him being seen in the black and white V again seemed extremely remote, as then coach David Kidwell made it clear he was focusing on younger options in the halves.

But on Friday night Marshall will lead the Kiwis into battle in the trans-tasman test in Wollongong, after being named as skipper by coach Michael Maguire.

His comeback to the Kiwis to face Tonga in June was one of the feel good sporting moments of the year, while his promotion to skipper adds another layer.

"It's a crazy story to be honest and something I definitely didn't see coming," said Marshall. "But it's something I can look back on and be really proud of. Just the ability to get back in this position to play, but then also to be able to lead our country again."

Marshall was caught by surprise when Maguire asked him to lead the national side again, for the first time since November 2012.

"He asked me to go for a coffee and have a chat about the captaincy," said Marshall. "I thought that meant maybe talk about who should be the captain, talk about those options, not actually him say 'I want you to be the captain'.

It meant that Marshall wasn't sure about taking on the role that he had performed on 19 previous occasion since 2008.

"I had a few reservations because we have got a lot of great leaders, like Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck], Shaun [Johnson], Jared [Waerea-Hargreaves], guys I could see doing a great job for us," said Marshall.

"And then when I actually thought about it, just the opportunity to front our team and talk about how great it is to wear this jumper and let those guys just focus on footy. [And] they will have a very heavy leadership role in terms of what happens on and off the field."

And just like June, when he returned from a seven year test exile, his elevation to skipper was an emotional moment for the 34-year-old.

"I had to hold back the tears," admitted Marshall. "I was a little bit in shock at first then when I rang my wife and [told her] she put it in perspective. 'Look, where you have come from to be in this position, you should be really proud' and I lost it a bit."

"I don't cry that often but it happened twice in this jumper in the last year. I'm just going to make the most of every opportunity I get to not only wear this jumper, but help leave a legacy. "

Marshall's first captained the Kiwis during the 2008 World Cup, when he stood in for Nathan Cayless.

He became the permanent skipper the following year, and was in glorious form when he led the team to the 2010 Four Nations title.

But he also struggled sometimes with the burden of captaincy, coupled with all the focus already on him, especially in 2012.

Marshall is a very different person, and player, now.

The 34-year-old doesn't have the flash and dash, the electric pace and step but he's also a much more rounded individual.

That's why he became a logical choice for Maguire, with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak out injured.

Tuivasa-Sheck needs a break, after his Warriors travails, Johnson has enough on his plate and it's too difficult for a prop like Waerea-Hargreaves in the modern game.

"I know when I did it the last time I was a lot younger and didn't understand as much as I do now about leadership," said Marshall. "I know this time I can definitely make the most of it and help lead us to a victory, firstly against Australia and then against Great Britain."

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