x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Benji Marshall’s code switch may be too much too late

Track record of players making move late in their career is not promising

Benji Marshall of Wests Tigers runs the ball during the National Rugby League match against Sydney Roosters at the Sydney Football Stadium on April 3, 2011. Mark Nolan / Getty Images
Benji Marshall of Wests Tigers runs the ball during the National Rugby League match against Sydney Roosters at the Sydney Football Stadium on April 3, 2011. Mark Nolan / Getty Images

There is not a fail-safe formula for working out which rugby league players will make successful conversions to the rival code, although age is often cited as a key factor.

Benji Marshall will become the latest case study when he makes his first start for Auckland’s Blues in Super Rugby this weekend, following his lucrative switch from the 13-man game, where he played for National Rugby League side Wests Tigers.

Marshall was a walking highlights reel in league. But will he have the capability, energy – or even the will – to master the rudiments and the playbook of union, given that he is in his 30th year now?

Some observers reckoned his influence for New Zealand and Wests had already started to wane, so he made the move quickly while he could still demand a sizeable contract.

Nevertheless, he has been spoken about as a potential New Zealand union representative, be it as part of their Olympic sevens squad or even as an All Black.

But so late in the day? The evidence of Andy Farrell and Lesley Vainikolo – celebrated league players who converted at 29 and 28 respectively – suggests he is up against it.

English rugby has apparently lavished a king’s ransom on bringing Sam Burgess back from Australian rugby league, but he is only 25.

Even if next year’s World Cup does come too soon, there is still enough time for him to make a go of the switch.

pradley@thenational.ae

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