From here on out, we shall refer to Jeremy Marshall-King as Jeremy Marshall-King. That or any other alias I can conjure up, but definitely no more of that 'Benji's brother' bull-kaka as it's incredibly annoying. This got a bit crazy as Marshall-King made his NRL debut last night for Wests Tigers, although the novelty value was hot and now that we've got that fluff out of the way, we can actually start to ponder Marshall-King's own #KiwiNRL future.
Yes, Marshall-King is a #KiwiNRL homie. Jeremy moved to Australia after growing up in Whakatane as Benji was lighting up the NRL and unless David Kidwell's anti-Benji beliefs seep through into the next decade of Aoteraoa Kiwis' future, everything points to Jeremy having his sights set on representing Aotearoa.
Marshall-King was a late call up, replacing Elijah Taylor in the Tigers 17 - shout out to Taylor for snapping up the Wests Tigers Members Player of the Year nod as well. Jack Littlejohn has filled holes in the Tigers halves previously, but with injuries to their dummy half stocks, Littlejohn started at hooker and Marshall-King came off the bench. Purely judging Marshall-King from his size, he looks like a half and I'm fairly confident that he'd want to play in the halves if given the choice, but Marshall-King ripped in through the middle with strapping around his noggin.
38 minutes off the bench, with a run for 12m and 25 tackles for Marshall-King and while he had 3 missed tackles, Littlejohn also missed 3 tackles (from 36 tackles though). Marshall-King looks like a half just because he's lean and most young dummy halves get told to put on a bit of muscle to handle the rigours of defending in the middle, so my guess is that Marshall-King is a pure utility who hasn't been directed towards specializing at dummy half. Nothing Marshall-King did caught the eye, he just went about his business and that was the best sign of a solid dummy half as fed the ball to the play-makers and defended as best as he could.
Another reason I'm intrigued by Marshall-Kings utility value is that he fed his play-makers with crisp passes, spiral passes, either side of the ruck. These weren't the standard passes where the hooker throws a 4-5m pass, Marshall-King showed he could rip a slick 10m pass to a play-maker, which allowed the Tigers to get to the middle of the field with one pass, or get their play-makers to the edges from the middle.
While Marshall-King could definitely take up NRL opportunities by playing dummy half, the Tigers are stacked in that position and Marshall-King's opportunity came thanks to the Tigers being ravaged by injury. Christchurch's Matt McIlwrick and Tigers junior Jacob Liddle shared dummy half minutes for most of this season, both were unavailable through injury and then Taylor missed this game through injury. Ain't no room to complain when three of those dummy half options are #KiwiNRL homies.
It is however unrealistic to expect Marshall-King to kick on at dummy half next season; Littlejohn and Marshall-King are at least 3rd/4th on the Tigers dummy half depth chart.
Even in the halves, the Tigers have options that push Marshall-King down the depth chart. Tuimoala Lolohea is likely to step back to fullback next season, with Josh Reynolds and Benji joining the Tigers next season, where they'll compete to partner Luke Brooks. The Tigers will also sniff around this Matt Moylan drama - Moylan is a better fullback than Lolohea and/or better half than Renyolds and Marshall.
Benji and Jeremy could battle it out for the bench utility spot. Benji has shown that he's down for whatever the team needs and I reckon Jeremy's best chance of regular minutes could come via his versatility. Jeremy can cover a range of positions while the likes of McIlwrick and Liddle can only really play hooker, this is nicely suited to fewer interchanges and concussion rules.
Before Marshall-King was set to make his debut, I made a 2018 #KiwiNRL Tigers team and now with Marshall-King in the frame, let's go all-in on the #KiwiNRL Tigers to see how many we can fit in...
FB: Tuimoala Lolohea*
Wings: David Noafoluma, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak*.
Centres: Esan Marsters*, Taane Milne*.
Halves: Benji Marshall*, Luke Brooks.
Middles: Russell Packer*, Matt McIlwrick*, Ben Matulino*, Elijah Taylor*.
Edges: Josh Aloiai*, Michael Chee-Kam*.
Bench: Jeremy Marshall-King*, Sauaso Sue, Tim Grant, Matt Eisenhuth.
That's 12 #KiwiNRL homies in a team of 17 folks and while it's a stretch, it's possible.
Not get crazy hopeful about Marshall-King's short-term #KiwiNRL future as he's down the pecking order and will need the stars to align again for him to get an opportunity early next season. Don't expect Marshall-King to be limited to dummy half either as his opening could come in the halves, which has me intriguied as to what niche Marshall-King carves out for himself in the NRL. He's already stepped out of Benji's shadow and emerged as his own #KiwiNRL identity, now we wait and see how Marshall-King establishes himself.
Peace and love 27.
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