Fire
Starter

Combustion relies on three things; fuel, oxygen, and most importantly, an ignition source. Without the ignition source, the spark, no fire will ever eventuate. Analogy can be drawn to rugby league ? the forwards the fuel, the backs the oxygen. But no matter the quality or quantity of the fuel and oxygen, the chemistry is incomplete without the halves ? the spark.

Few appreciate that the most intense fire and the slowest rusting have the same reaction at their core. The NRL?s premier halves all operate at different speeds, controlling the tempo of their side in different ways. No bigger contrast can be seen than that between the explosive Benji Marshall and the evergreen Jason Smith.

Benji Marshall needs no introduction; he is an NRL superstar. Plagued by shoulder injuries early in his career, 2005 marked Benji?s arrival as one of the game?s dominant playmakers. Free of the injuries that had previously restricted his appearances for the Tigers, his presence led the joint venture to not only their maiden finals appearance, but their maiden premiership. Marshall was undoubtedly the player of the finals series, with his impact ranging from try-saving tackles against Brisbane to ?that pass? in the Grand Final to Pat Richards. Massive plays aside, his pace and step made him a continual handful for opposition defences. When Benji plays, the Tigers are equivalent to a raging inferno.

Jason Smith is in many ways the antithesis of Benji Marshall. At opposite ends of their careers, Smith plays a brand of football few others can match; rather than speeding the game up, he slows the game down. Many saw his return to the NRL for the Raiders in 2005 after 4 years in England as an impending disaster ? after a string of injuries that kept him sidelined at Hull, how was his ageing body going to handle the rigours of the NRL?

What Jason Smith lacks in pace, however, he makes up for in football smarts. His debut season for Canberra was a revelation; despite the side finishing fourteenth, he regularly beat opposition defences with delayed passes and clever decoys. At full strength the Smith-led Raiders were a threat to even the top teams in the competition, and as a long-suffering Canberra fan it was a delight to see a world-class playmaker at the Raiders once again. Jason Smith might move as quickly as rust develops, but his contribution to a young Raiders side was immense. Similar to Benji, in Smith?s absence, his side was a rudderless ship. The spark was no longer there.

Only days ago, during the Grand Final rematch against the Cowboys, the Tigers? premiership defence suffered a massive blow as Marshall dislocated his shoulder ? again. The fifth time he has suffered such an injury at only 21, questions were raised as to the longevity of Benji?s potentially brilliant career. Surgery seems to be likely at the conclusion of the NRL season, while his team-mates have to struggle on without him for the next six weeks. After an already shaky start to the season, can his side survive without the spark he provides?

Signing on for another season with the Raiders, Jason Smith has started 2006 slowly ? although it would not be in his nature to start the year with a bang. Many have said Smith has hung around one season too many, that age is catching up with him. Yet to rubbish his contribution is to not appreciate how significant Smith is to an inexperienced Raiders outfit. In the opening round success at Manly and the golden-point victory against Penrith in Canberra, it was invariably Smith who threw the final pass for a Raiders try. It was Smith who continually provided attacking opportunities for the Raiders, and it will be Smith who will assist the development of the talented young halves the Raiders have on their books. One of the most astute purchases by the club in recent memory, ?Mr Rust? will continue to be the most crucial player in the Raiders side throughout 2006. The explosive young halves will have to wait.

After purchasing land near the Queensland border, Smith will depart the national capital at season?s end, most likely to retire. Yet his services have already been sounded out by the entering Gold Coast side, proof that no matter how slow the reaction is, rust will keep on going. Sadly, for both the Tigers and the league community, the explosion that is Benji Marshall may be extinguished too soon.
Combustion relies on three things; fuel, oxygen, and most importantly, an ignition source. Without the ignition source, the spark, no fire will ever eventuate. Analogy can be drawn to rugby league ? the forwards the fuel, the backs the oxygen. But no matter the quality or quantity of the fuel and oxygen, the chemistry is incomplete without the halves ? the spark.

Few appreciate that the most intense fire and the slowest rusting have the same reaction at their core. The NRL?s premier halves all operate at different speeds, controlling the tempo of their side in different ways. No bigger contrast can be seen than that between the explosive Benji Marshall and the evergreen Jason Smith.

Benji Marshall needs no introduction; he is an NRL superstar. Plagued by shoulder injuries early in his career, 2005 marked Benji?s arrival as one of the game?s dominant playmakers. Free of the injuries that had previously restricted his appearances for the Tigers, his presence led the joint venture to not only their maiden finals appearance, but their maiden premiership. Marshall was undoubtedly the player of the finals series, with his impact ranging from try-saving tackles against Brisbane to ?that pass? in the Grand Final to Pat Richards. Massive plays aside, his pace and step made him a continual handful for opposition defences. When Benji plays, the Tigers are equivalent to a raging inferno.

Jason Smith is in many ways the antithesis of Benji Marshall. At opposite ends of their careers, Smith plays a brand of football few others can match; rather than speeding the game up, he slows the game down. Many saw his return to the NRL for the Raiders in 2005 after 4 years in England as an impending disaster ? after a string of injuries that kept him sidelined at Hull, how was his ageing body going to handle the rigours of the NRL?

What Jason Smith lacks in pace, however, he makes up for in football smarts. His debut season for Canberra was a revelation; despite the side finishing fourteenth, he regularly beat opposition defences with delayed passes and clever decoys. At full strength the Smith-led Raiders were a threat to even the top teams in the competition, and as a long-suffering Canberra fan it was a delight to see a world-class playmaker at the Raiders once again. Jason Smith might move as quickly as rust develops, but his contribution to a young Raiders side was immense. Similar to Benji, in Smith?s absence, his side was a rudderless ship. The spark was no longer there.

Only days ago, during the Grand Final rematch against the Cowboys, the Tigers? premiership defence suffered a massive blow as Marshall dislocated his shoulder ? again. The fifth time he has suffered such an injury at only 21, questions were raised as to the longevity of Benji?s potentially brilliant career. Surgery seems to be likely at the conclusion of the NRL season, while his team-mates have to struggle on without him for the next six weeks. After an already shaky start to the season, can his side survive without the spark he provides?

Signing on for another season with the Raiders, Jason Smith has started 2006 slowly ? although it would not be in his nature to start the year with a bang. Many have said Smith has hung around one season too many, that age is catching up with him. Yet to rubbish his contribution is to not appreciate how significant Smith is to an inexperienced Raiders outfit. In the opening round success at Manly and the golden-point victory against Penrith in Canberra, it was invariably Smith who threw the final pass for a Raiders try. It was Smith who continually provided attacking opportunities for the Raiders, and it will be Smith who will assist the development of the talented young halves the Raiders have on their books. One of the most astute purchases by the club in recent memory, ?Mr Rust? will continue to be the most crucial player in the Raiders side throughout 2006. The explosive young halves will have to wait.

After purchasing land near the Queensland border, Smith will depart the national capital at season?s end, most likely to retire. Yet his services have already been sounded out by the entering Gold Coast side, proof that no matter how slow the reaction is, rust will keep on going. Sadly, for both the Tigers and the league community, the explosion that is Benji Marshall may be extinguished too soon.





Like

Your Two Cents...

No one has commented on this page yet. Why not kick things off?