Benji to Kodi and Milford: ‘I know your pain’
Benji Marshall reckons he was five years older than Kodi Nikorima when the penny dropped.
"I reckon it was only when I turned 30 that I realised how to organise a team,'' said Marshall, 34, who played 13 games for the Broncos in 2017 and still watches every match the club plays.
Nikorima and halves partner Anthony Milford are under siege as a result of the Broncos winning just one of their opening six games.
Marshall, now back with the Wests Tigers, is watching on with a sense of empathy because his 16-year first grade career has weathered many of the same challenges.
When Marshall closes his eyes and thinks of his Broncos games he hears three big voices from the engine room.
"Sam Thaiday, Josh McGuire and Adam Blair were the three most vocal guys in the forwards,'' Marshall said.
"But they are not are not there now. So Andrew McCullough, Darius Boyd, Alex Glenn would be doing more talking but the team must also find that next generation of leaders.
"I still think we are expecting too much of them (Nikorima and Milford) too early. It is not natural to them. They are not natural talkers or organisers. They are natural footy players.
"It can come but there is just so much pressure now on game management. When a team does not go well it always reflects on the halves. They are copping it a bit unfairly.
"The platform has not been as good as what it has been. The reason they had such success last year was they had a lot of leaders in the forwards. That has gone a bit.''
So what did Marshall know at 30 he did not know at 25?
"Thinking ahead. Planning a couple of plays ahead. Setting up where you want to kick from. I watch all of their games and I think one of their biggest problems is they get to the last tackle and decide what their kick is going to be instead of pre-planning a few tackles ahead.
"I used to know where my best kick would be and we tried to get to that spot every time.
"When they get to the last tackle it looks as if they are thinking "I am going to do this kick.''
Marshall knows well the stresses of trying to run and team yet shine as an individual.
"Sometimes I think - not Kodi and Anthony but young kids generally - in the halves can be so worried about organising everyone else they forget about their strengths.
"I was guilty of that. I forgot about my running game and became a ballplayer and I just wasn't a threat.
"There was a couple of years when I went from 10 runs a game to two runs a game when I became a halfback and thought I had to be a ballplayer.
"When you think about Kodi and Anthony their strongest attributes are their running games but when you put them in those positions they are so worried about everyone else they forget about themselves.
"It is a tough balance to find and probably the hardest thing. I think Kodi needs to step up at halfback and take control - he had that in him and Milf needs to play off the back of him.''