Benji Marshall is making his return to Test rugby.
Benji Marshall is making his return to Test rugby.

Teammate’s priceless reaction to Benji’s NZ recall

Of all the reactions to Benji Marshall's Test recall this week, the best belongs to Kiwis teammate and debutant Jahrome Hughes.

"It's crazy actually, just to see him. I still look at him and think he's fake."

For Melbourne star Hughes, 34-year-old Marshall is a hero from another lifetime, the halfback he cheered and admired through his early teenage years.

 

Benji Marshall is back in the Kiwis jersey.
Benji Marshall is back in the Kiwis jersey.

 

Jahrome Hughes will debut for the Kiwis.
Jahrome Hughes will debut for the Kiwis.

The concept of playing alongside the 27-Test veteran in Saturday's showdown with Tonga in Auckland has taken some adjusting.

And it's not just the newcomers doing double-takes at training.

Starting props Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Jesse Bromwich are the only members of the starting team who were wearing black when Marshall last represented the Kiwis seven years ago.

Waerea-Hargreaves couldn't resist a dig and also a nod of respect towards the Wests Tigers playmaker who confessed this week he had virtually scrubbed out his own hopes of a recall.

"To get the Koro (grandfather) back in camp, it's cool, it's really cool for the country," Waerea-Hargreaves said.

"To see his old head back around here … he's obviously been doing the right thing with Madge (coach Michael Maguire) at the Tigers to get back in."

 

Benji Marshall at Kiwis training.
Benji Marshall at Kiwis training.

Just as thankful for Marshall's return is NZ Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters, who said New Zealand supporters had snapped up a greater chunk of the early-week ticket sales than anticipated.

He's convinced the presence of former captain and World Cup-winning star Marshall had played a big part.

"Benji's massive. I think he did 17 media interviews in one day," Peters said.

"His leadership, his story and what the jersey means to him are really special and it holds an appeal to a generation of Kiwi supporters."