Don’t Sleep on Benji.

And so it begins.

I’ve been an Auckland rugby supporter for as long as I can remember and it’s been a decade since I’ve been so excited about a new signing. Benji Marshall – stand up.

Benji is the most exciting thing to happen to Blues Rugby since Rupeni – in my opinion – and the anticipation of seeing him in Blue has already got my blood boiling – 6 months before the start of next Super Rugby season.

I’ve heard a lot of, not necessarily negative talk about Benji’s arrival – but a lack of optimism that I think someone of Benji’s pedigree warrants.

People forget so easily the impact Benji has made on Rugby League and Rugby across both codes.

He is the first of his mould of athlete in the professional game. Small-town Aotearoa (Whakatane stand up) is choc-full of young kiwi’s with a similar ‘touch’ skillset to Benji, but it was Benji who took that skillset to the bright lights of the NRL for the whole world to see.

Will we ever forget that try from Benji’s breakout in the ’05 NRL Grand Final? Was that his peak? Nope. The ’08 World Cup Triumph, the ’10 Four Nations Crown, he was the 2010 International Footballer of the Year. Surely that’s his peak?

See that’s the thing with class – it’s those that have it that generally call time on it, not us.

Tigers-Benji-Marshall-july-2013-GETTY-IMAGESBenji brings to the Blues an other-worldly skillset, the professionalism of someone who has remained an elite athelete, in the top echeloen of his sport, for over ten years and a sense of loyalty and leadership that can only positively influence Blues players including emerging stars Charles Piutau, Steve Luatua and Charlie Faumuina.

In my eyes, the signing has success written all over it.

The only remaining question is if Benji can take the next step into the All Blacks.

Well – Benji has honourably captained both club and country. He is a Rugby League World Cup Winner, Golden Boot Winner, NRL Premiership Winner and Four Nations Winner. For those who think the All Blacks is out of his reach for him, I want to leave you with the great words of the Back-to Back NBA Champion Houston Rockets Coach Rudy Tomjanovich…

‘Don’t EVER underestimate the heart of a champion.’

All the best Benji. Welcome home.

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