This week Benji Marshall will play his 250th NRL game! What an amazing achievement. And how fitting it is that the game will be played against the Wests Tigers, the team he first played for as a 17 year old high school student.
Benji was a student at Keebra Park High School on the Gold Coast in August 2003. One Tuesday his phone rang at school and the voice on the end claimed to be Tigers’ coach Tim Sheens. Benji thought one of his friends was pranking him and hung up. The phone rang again.
“Seriously, it’s Tim Sheens,” the voice said, “and if you hang up on me again, you won’t be playing first grade.”
Benji went to school Wednesday and Thursday, flew to Sydney on Thursday night, trained Friday and Saturday with the team, then played Sunday.
“When I went back to school the next Monday, my whole life changed,” Benji says. “There were cameras at school, and girls who didn’t want to talk to me before started talking to me.”
Benji may have tasted fame early, but he went through many challenges during his career, including five devastating shoulder injuries, which is one of the main reasons why I wanted to write about him. He’s had a very hard life but has shown the kind of resiliency that’s inspiring and encouraging.
I will always honour Benji and his manager Martin Tauber. They gave me permission to write a biography of Benji’s life for teenagers. I called the book Steppin’ with Benji Marshall. They didn’t need to do that because at the time I was an unpublished writer and I later found out that they were putting together Benji’s official biography at the same time. They didn’t have the attitude that my book might compete with theirs. They supported my idea of providing reading material that Maori and Pasifika youth could relate to. I’ve never met Benji but have so much respect for him for supporting my efforts to boost young people’s literacy.
Congratulations to Benji on 250 games as an NRL player!
Check out https://readingwarrior.com/sportsbooks/steppin-with-benji-marshall/ for info about the book.