Ivan Cleary has a plan for Benji Marshall’s long-awaited return to the club where he made his name but as he usually does, the Wests Tigers coach is keeping his cards close to his chest.
Recovering from a recent calf injury, there was a fear Marshall would have to delay his return to Wests Tigers colours but the veteran five-eighth has been passed fit after this mornings captain’s run at ANZ Stadium.
The Tigers will be underdogs against the star-studded Sydney Roosters in their round one clash of the Telstra Premiership and Cleary said Marshall’s availability was a massive boost.
“It’s definitely good to have Benji [Marshall] back. It’s good to see him happy and it’s good to see someone who’s done so much for the club really want to come back, it’s definitely positive for us,” he said.
“There’s no concern about his calf, he will play. I’ve got a plan.”
Marshall sat out each of the two pre-season trials to be on call for the birth of his first child. He and his wife, Zoe, recently welcomed a little boy into the world.
“He had a baby boy a couple of weeks ago, a very proud moment for Benji,” Cleary said.
“It went overtime a little bit but it was a great moment for him and now he’s looking forward to playing footy.”
Cleary has also clarified why he didn’t select David Nofoaluma by saying there were no guarantees for any player to get a start each week.
“I picked the team that is going to give us the best chance to win,” he said.
“We have a squad that’s got genuine depth and what I mean by that is any number of players on any given day can do a certain job.
“I guess some squads are more heavily stacked with high-end players and ours is a bit more right across the group, which drives a bit of competitiveness for positions and performance at training and during games.
“These guys tomorrow get the first crack so I expect those guys to really value their position.”
In the first four rounds, the Wests Tigers face the Sydney Roosters, Melbourne Storm, Brisbane Broncos and Parramatta Eels. Cleary is confident his side can overcome the tough start to their campaign.
“I think we are breaking records apparently. Look you got to play everyone, you only play one team at once though so we’re just concentrating on that right now,” he said.
“We are what we are. We’re unfancied, underdogs I guess if you’d like to say, so we know where we are and what we’ve got in front of us. We are very confident that we’ve prepared well and we’re more than competitive.
“The first thing we’ve got to try and do is win our first game and hopefully that’s tomorrow. From there we just try and build a bit of momentum and go from there.
“It’s very hard for a new team like us to be looking too far ahead so we will just focus on tomorrow, play to our strengths, perform as well as we can and see where we go from there.”