307 games between drinks is a crazy stat to think about.
And as far as narrative goes, nothing will be better to watch than the wizard from Whakatane go out (if the decision to retire is made) with a second GF ring.
But regardless of the result, much bigger than all the amazing accolades or that filthy step.
Even bigger than that flick pass, is the impact on New Zealand rugby league culture.
Benji Marshall is our Joey Johns.
I love Stacey Jones. My second favourite Warriors player of all time behind the obvious, Isaac John.
And there’s no denying what the Little General meant – and still means – to so many footy fans across New Zealand.
But not like Benji Marshall.
You see, back home, there are a ton of Warriors fans.
But there’s also a ton of Manly fans…and Storm fans…and Broncos fans (for some reason)..and obviously, Tigers fans.
So Stacey, while an absolute icon, is not universally worshiped the way Benji Marshall is.
There’s a whole generation of kids who grew up with flat footy and hand-me-down boots, running up and down their driveways or local parks doing two things.
1) Yelling “Sonny-Bill” every time they drop a shoulder.
And 2) throwing a goosey – into a flick pass and screaming “Benji!” the one time it actually works.
An entire generation of kids have grown up with those two as their – as our – north stars.
Without Benji Marshall, we probably don’t get to see the likes of Shaun Johnson burst onto the scene with the confidence to play what they see, and attack from everywhere.
Benji made it cool to play outside of the chains, footy traditionally restricts halves in.
But beyond even the on field class, it’s off the field where the best work was done.
Despite playing club footy in Australia, the Kiwis and New Zealand rugby league has always been front of mind.
That was never more clear than in 2019 when, at 34 years old and 2443-days between the Test footy appearances, the emotion spilled out during the national anthem.
That’s white Kiwi fans fuck with.
There is no player who has worn the black and white jersey with more pride.
Andrew Johns is an immortal. Arguably the best to ever do it and the gold standard for which many young players and even contemporaries looked up too.
But for New Zealand, it has and always will be, Benji Marshall.
Whether the boots do get hung up on Sunday or not is irrelevant.
And honestly as amazing as a GF win would be the result is also, irrelevant.
The legacy is cemented.
So on behalf of all the kids who grew up throwing half a tub of dax-wax in their hair, throwing no-look cut-out passes from inside their own half, and skipping around defenders trying to be like Benji.
Thank you, and congrats in advance to whatever is next.