Benji Marshall with the Kiwi side in 2011.
Benji Marshall with the Kiwi side in 2011. Dean Purcell

Benji Marshall looks to rugby after asking for release

THE chances of Benji Marshall switching to rugby and playing for the Blues took a step closer last night with confirmation the former Kiwis captain has asked for a release from his contract with the Wests Tigers.

The Sydney club indicated it would not stand in his way.

Marshall has been disillusioned with the Tigers for refusing to honour a handshake agreement over an upgraded contract.

The 28-year-old has another two years left on his contract with the club he won an NRL premiership with in 2005. He has played 193 matches for the Tigers and is their all-time leading points scorer.

He has said he wouldn't contemplate playing for another NRL outfit, raising speculation he might switch to rugby and could also chase inclusion in the New Zealand sevens side for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has been in touch with Marshall's agent, Martin Tauber, about the star signing with the Blues. But there has also been interest from the Waratahs, and from rugby clubs in Japan that could offer more lucrative deals.

"Benji will play out the balance of the 2013 year but will seek an early release," Tauber told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"This has been a very difficult decision. This young man has given 12 years of his football life to a club that he has great regard and affection for. However, with what's transpired, he believes it's time for him to take up another challenge ..."

Tigers chief operating officer Grant Mayer said he expected the issue to be "resolved relatively quickly".

He said the club was extremely disappointed but intimated it wouldn't stand in Marshall's way.

"Benji has obviously made a decision that he believes is right for himself and his family. All we can do is thank him wholeheartedly for what he has done for not only the club but the game as a whole."

Marshall's decision will also be closely followed by Stephen Kearney as the Kiwis coach plots the defence of league's World Cup in Britain and France this year. Kearney replaced Marshall as captain ahead of this year's Anzac test in favour of Warriors skipper Simon Mannering but Marshall was still expected to be an important member of the squad.