Benji Marshall was handed an NRL lifeline by South Sydney four days ago and now the New Zealand legend has been named to represent the Maori All Stars for the first time.
The 35-year-old was named in a 20-man squad to take on the Indigenous All Stars in Townsville on February 20 after coach David Kidwell called to see if he was available.
One of the most successful Kiwi players to ever play rugby league, Marshall’s inclusion in the Maori team marks a sharp turn around after he was left considering retirement following the end of his Wests Tigers contract.
According to Kidwell, the veteran five-eighth jumped at the opportunity to play alongside his brother, Canterbury hooker Jeremy Marshall-King.
“I actually phoned him and asked if he’d like to represent the Indigenous Maori for this game, and just the excitement that came across the phone line from him,” Kidwell said.
“He also gets the opportunity to play with his brother Jeremy, and having that brother connection is really important.
“It’s something we did last year (with Jesse and Kenny Bromwich).
“I thought we’d give Benji a good crack at this, he’s represented the All Stars team before but he gets to represent his people.”
With no World Club Challenge this season, the premiership-winning Bromwich brothers have been named for the side again this year, alongside five other Melbourne stars across both teams.
Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell is also set to make his return to the field in the pre-season match in his first game since rupturing his hamstring late last season.
Meanwhile, Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga is unavailable for the Maori side as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery.
In his place, Canberra fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has been named for the Maori team as they look to defend their 30-16 victory in last year’s match.
*NRL All Stars teams*
Indigenous: 1 Latrell Mitchell, 2 Blake Ferguson, 3 Jack Wighton, 4 Jesse Ramien, 5 Josh Addo Carr, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Jamal Fogarty, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Reuben Cotter, 10 Josh Kerr, 11 David Fifita, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Tyrone Peachey, 14 Alex Johnston, 15 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, 16 Cade Cust, 17 Chris Smith, 18 Tyrell Fuimaono, 19 Josh Curran, 20 Brian Kelly. Coach: Laurie Daley
Maori: 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 3 Joseph Manu, 4 Dylan Walker, 5 Reimis Smith, 6 Jarome Luai, 7 Jahrome Hughes, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Brandon Smith, 10 James Fisher-Harris, 11 Briton Nikora, 12 Kenneath Bromwich, 13 Joseph Tapine, 14 Jeremy Marshall-King, 15 Kevin Proctor, 16 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 17 Jordan Riki, 18 Patrick Herbert, 19 Bailey Simonsson, 20 Benji Marshall. Coach: David Kidwell