Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, two of the most celebrated members of the Wests Tigers’ class of 2005, go into the weekend with their NRL careers at a crossroads.
The Tigers will run on to ANZ Stadium against St George Illawarra on Sunday without Farah in their line-up after he was sensationally dropped to reserve grade by coach Jason Taylor this week.
Farah is decried as prickly and difficult to get along with but beloved by Tigers fans for his part in their 2005 grand final win and 247 games of service to the club, and his career is on the line.
Taylor insists Farah was axed because he wasn’t gelling with young halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks. However, the fact remains the NSW No.9 is fighting for his career at Concord and in the NRL.
Should Taylor’s experiment work and the Tigers show some pluck in the run to the finals, it could spell the end of Farah’s career.
His axing means he won’t be there to celebrate with good mate and Dragons playmaker Marshall, who marks his 250th NRL game against the Tigers.
As with Farah, Marshall’s future is far from certain. He is off contract at the end of the year and after the Dragons failed in their bid to lure Luke Keary to the club, and rumours of their interest in Corey Norman, the writing appears to be on the wall.
Marshall’s only hope is to rediscover his brilliant best and reignite the Dragons, who are 10th and clinging to the edge of finals contention after two straight losses.
“A person that’s had that many setbacks and overcome them, the challenges of being such a superstar at such a young age, you certainly have to be mentally tough,” Dragons coach Paul McGregor said of Marshall.
“You don’t get shoulder recos from getting out of the way, you get shoulder recos if you’re getting in the way.
“To do what he’s done and come back from them and the football he’s displayed over a long period of time, at international and club level, is exceptional.”
McGregor has swung the axe after his side was outscored 68-18 over the last two weeks with outside backs Kalifa Faifai Loa and Tim Lafai dropped for Adam Quinlan and Taane Milne.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* St George Illawarra are undefeated this season when managing to keep their opponents to 14 points or less.
* The Tigers have scored a total of 114 points in the opening 20 minutes of matches this season, which is the most in the competition.
* Six of the past eight matches between these sides have been decided by 10 points or more.
– Source: Fox Sports Stats