Sheens backs Benji to win

ASKED to sum up Benji Marshall’s chances of walking away with this year’s Golden Boot award, Australian and Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens kept his response brief.

“I wouldn’t swap him for anyone, put it that way,” Sheens said of his Tigers playmaker.

Marshall is among a handful of candidates up for international rugby league’s top individual gong, to be awarded at a ceremony in Leeds on Monday night.

Among the other candidates are Australian duo Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne, both brilliant players in their own right and in the case of Hayne, a player who produced one of the most dominant blocks of football ever witnessed when he led Parramatta into the NRL grand final.

But Marshall’s claims go beyond brilliant individual play.

During the judging period, which stretched from the start of last year’s World Cup to the beginning of the current Four Nations tournament, Marshall has helped turn rugby league’s world order upside down.

At the time Marshall was directing the Kiwis to World Cup glory, Hayne was strutting his stuff for Fiji, the talented Eels star unable to find a place in an Australian squad consisting of 24 players.

While Hayne was exceptional for Fiji, all their games but the semi-final when they were blown out by Australia were against minnow nations, Marshall was sending the Kangaroos to their second loss from their last three tournament finals.

Like Hayne, Marshall started the NRL season slow, but he too came home strong, and it was only thanks to Hayne’s Eels that the Tigers missed the finals.

Forever the showman, Marshall became the man in 2009.

“From my point of view, I think he’s shown a lot of improvement and a lot of maturity,” Sheens said.

“I wouldn’t swap him for anyone put it that way,” Sheens said.

Given that Sheens has spent the best part of the last month working with the man regarded as the best five-eighth in the game in Darren Lockyer, his comments are somewhat surprising.

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