Blues are frontrunners for Benji Marshall
July 23, 2013
Benji Marshall is likely to return to his native New Zealand with no Australian franchise able to pay him enough © Getty Images
Benji Marshall's allegiance to New Zealand means the Auckland-based Blues are firming as his likely rugby union destination.
Kiwi Marshall's declaration that he won't consider playing for Australia means no Australian Super Rugby club can afford him.
Melbourne Rebels were meeting with the NRL star's manager Martin Tauber late on Tuesday, but they would need the Australian Rugby Union to contribute to his salary to be any chance of meeting his salary demands. The 28-year-old reportedly asked the Tigers for a release from a $750,000 a year deal which the Rebels have said is way out of their league.
Tauber said Marshall, the former New Zealand rugby league Test skipper, only wants to play for his birth country.
"If he stays here and is seeking a top-up from the ARU he would need to make himself available for the Wallabies," Tauber said. "Benji's made it quite clear that he would never do anything but wear the Silver Fern."
According to Tauber, Marshall hasn't given up on playing rugby for New Zealand, either with the All Blacks or in the sevens team which will be among the gold medal favourites at the Rio Olympics. To do so, he must be playing in New Zealand to be eligible for selection.
Marshall and Tauber met with Blues coach John Kirwan and chief executive Andy Dalton in Sydney on the weekend although they were yet to receive an official offer from any Super Rugby club.
The ARU is understood to be keen to see Marshall play for the Rebels, who are without a high profile drawcard following the departures of fellow playmakers in Wallabies Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor.
Tauber said he hadn't spoken to the ARU about the possibility of Marshall receiving a promotional fee outside the salary cap.
"It's up to them to come back to us and say if he comes to the game and plays in Melbourne or wherever we will support him because of what he brings to the game by way of revenue with bums on seats, merchandising and kids wanting to play rugby because of him," Tauber said.
"There's no question that if he went to Melbourne, what he would do for the profile of the game because he's such a marquee player, would be advantageous not only for Melbourne rugby but for Australian rugby."
Tauber said there was no urgency to sign a deal with Marshall concentrating on the remainder of the NRL season. He said playing rugby union in Japan and France were still options.