Marshall forced to shelve Japan plans

AS WITH Danny Buderus’s ill-fated attempts to flit to rugby union, Benji Marshall’s brief flirtation with the rival code was just that – brief. Just hours after the prospect of Marshall seeking a release to play a lucrative guest stint in Japanese rugby union was raised, Wests Tigers and the NRL quickly slammed the door on any such proposal.

The NRL’s interim chief executive, Shane Mattiske, maintained last night any attempt by Marshall, or others, to seek a release to play an off-season in Japan would require money earned to be included in the salary cap the following season.

And while Sonny Bill Williams’s one-year deal with Sydney Roosters – yet to be signed off by the NRL – pricked the interest of other league players who might consider signing short-term deals to secure a payday in the off-season, Mattiske warned there was ”no obligation on the part of the game to accept a future registration”.

Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys reacted swiftly to the provocative comments by Marshall’s manager, Martin Tauber, following concerned calls from supporters and sponsors, saying: ”Let me put your minds at rest. This will not be happening.”

Mattiske was equally adamant: ”The precedent in relation to the sort of thing Benji’s manager has floated is pretty clear. We have looked at those sort of models before and rejected them.

”While every case is looked at on its merits, any artificial termination that was designed to allow a player to earn more money and return to the same club would be included within the cap.

”If a player were to head to a different club it would require some release on their part from normal training and we would have the ability to deem the rugby payments as part of the cap.”

He added: ”It is important to note that we are still to accept the proposal made by Sonny Bill.”

Tauber later backed away from any suggestion Marshall would seek a release from his Tigers contract, which expires at the end of 2015. But he did say the New Zealand captain might still consider a stint in Japan when it does.

”It’s something we might consider at the end of his current contract,” Tauber said.

Tauber also urged NRL officials not to deny players the chance to earn more money from lucrative guest stints when their contracts do expire.

”I just think we’ve got a closed mind to this,” he said.

Tauber had stated he would seek an audience with Humphreys in an attempt to explore the possibility of a release. It appears that meeting is now redundant.

”I have spoken with Benji’s manager, Martin Tauber, this morning who assures me that Benji is totally committed to his contract with Wests Tigers for the next three seasons,” Humphreys said.

”The most important message for [Wests Tigers supporters] is that Benji Marshall will remain an integral member of our team and will not be seeking a release from his contract.”

Marshall had first raised the prospect of a stint in Japanese rugby union in 2009, but his plan was thwarted by then NRL chief executive David Gallop.

Several months ago, as it became clear what Williams planned to do, he again raised the issue with Tauber.

Yesterday, Marshall returned to Sydney from the Central Coast after a Wests Tigers training camp not wishing to discuss plans which, so very quickly, were panned.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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