Benji Marshall would jump at the opportunity to be involved in the Denver Test as officials agree to provide drinks breaks to offset the effects of altitude and heat during the historic international.
England will take on New Zealand on American soil in a first for the code on June 23. The Test could be the first of several big games taken to the United States, with NRL CEO Todd Greenberg indicating next year’s season opener could be staged in North America.
There has been some resistance to the mid-year Test from the clubs, who have been concerned about the lack of consultation in the lead-up. There are fears players will be pressured into skipping the fixture, particularly those set to experience a short turnaround when the NRL competition restarts just days later.
One superstar keen to be involved is Marshall. The Wests Tigers veteran hasn’t played for the Kiwis since 2012, but a strong start to the season could catapult him back into the reckoning.
“It would be great to play over there,” Marshall said. “Representing your country, I’ve always felt it’s the highest honour in the game. We don’t get to play Origin so we don’t know what that’s like. Playing for New Zealand is the greatest honour you can achieve in the game.
“Growing up, as a kid, you want to represent your country so if the opportunity comes, I would 100 per cent take it. I’m sure all the other Kiwi boys feel the same way.
“I can see where the clubs are coming from with the investment they make in players every year. If you do go over, you probably won’t be able to
play the next week with jetlag, it’s probably not doable with recovery times and stuff. From my point of view, it’s something I would do to play for my country.”
The NZRL, in consultation with its medical staff and long-time Manly and Canterbury strength and conditioning coach Don Singe, have prepared a paper outlining measures to combat injury and fatigue.
“We have got the RLIF to approve having drinks breaks in the game for the heat and altitude we’re playing in,” NZRL boss Alex Hayton said.
“We’re doing everything we can to address the concerns. We felt having drinks breaks was probably better than pushing for an increase in interchange.
With internationals, we have 10 interchanges anyway. Drinks breaks mean everyone gets a break, including match officials. We’re looking at two and possibly three breaks during the game to do the right thing by the players and officials.”
Marshall welcomed the decision to take marquee games to the US, where he believed the sport would be a hit. “It’s a great chance to grow the
game internationally,” Marshall said.
“We can see how America does their sports and how much money is involved. We’ll be able to showcase our game over there without pads and helmets. They would freak out – everyone I speak to when I go to America say, ‘You don’t wear helmets? That’s crazy.’
“If they got the opportunity to see that first-hand, it would be an opportunity to grow the game over there.”
As seen in the Sunday Sydney Herald