NRL 2021: Calls growing for Kiwi Benji Marshall to become next 'Immortal'

Calls are growing for Kiwi rugby league great Benji Marshall to be the NRL's 14th immortal.  

After turning back the clock with his performance for South Sydney Rabbitohs in the 2021 NRL season, some of the rugby league's greats have called for him to receive the competition's highest honour.

At 36, the league's oldest active player has started his 19th season on fire, with three tries, three try assists and a total of 322 running metres, and has contributed six linebreak assists.

The Rabbitohs have compiled seven straight wins, after an opening-round loss to Melbourne Storm, announcing themselves as genuine title contenders.

After West Tigers released him at the end of the 2020 season, Marshall considered retirement, but got a late phone call from Souths coach Wayne Bennett a month before the season to extend his career into a 19th year.

His scintillating performances have the greats in awe. 

In fact, NZ Warriors advisor and rugby league icon Phil Gould has called for Marshall to receive the NRL's highest honour.  

"He's an Immortal, whether they give it to him or not," Gould tweets.

An NRL Immortal comprises the competition's greatest players. The concept was originally started by Australian sport magazine Rugby League Week in 1981, before the NRL took it over in 2018. 

There are currently 13 Immortals - Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, John Raper, Reg Gasnier Graeme Langlands, Wally Lewis, Arthur Beetson, Andrew Johns, Herbert 'Dally' Messenger, Frank Burge, Dave Brown, Norm Provan and Mal Meninga. 

To be eligible for Immortal status, Marshall must first achieve a spot in the NRL Hall of Fame. 

"With the new rules and the quicker ruck, he's got more time with the ball in his hands and more space,"Andrew 'Joey' Johns - the eighth Immortal tells Nine's Wide World of Sports. "That's a deadly combination for a crafty player like Benji.

"He's also one of the rare players remaining in the competition, who simply reacts to the defence. He doesn't premeditate.

"His deception with the ball is an art form, hiding the ball from the defence, which stops them in their tracks.

"He looks in before playing out, he looks to run before kicking. It's like watching an artist at work. 

"He's become the modern-day Michelangelo - the artist, not the ninja turtle."

In Souths 34-20 victory over Canberra Raiders, Marshall brought up his 332th NRL appearance and became the most-capped NZ- born player.  

Marshall's performances have rekindled memories of his glory days, on the way to the 2005 NRL Premiership, the NZ Kiwis' 2008 Rugby World Cup title and many countless displays he's put on in his career.

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