UNDER-siege Wests Tigers coach Michael Potter has ignored external pressure and retained out-of-form five-eighth Benji Marshall for Saturday's celebration match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Needing three more appearances for 200 games at NRL level, Marshall was expected to be dumped by the Tigers for the famed SCG clash with the Dragons, and the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the iconic Gladiator photo of Norm Provan and Arthur Summons. But despite calls for his head, Benji was retained and 18-year-old star in waiting, Luke Brooks, will have to wait to don the No.7 jersey.
With the Tigers languishing in second-last place and Potter's coaching future supposedly in jeopardy, the poor performance of Marshall in the 56-14 flogging by the Roosters Monday night has led to calls for his sacking. One of the best attacking players in the game in an 11-season career, he ran just twice for a seven-metre gain.
Potter was not swayed by outside pressure, with legendary halfbacks Andrew Johns and Peter Sterling both saying it was time for Marshall to go, and make way for Brooks who is the future of the club. In the only change to the Tigers, Bodene Thompson starts in the centres replacing the injured Blake Ayshford.
The Dragons are unchanged from last weekend, when beaten on the bell by the Sharks.
Only minor changes have been made for Friday night's blockbuster at ANZ Stadium between the Rabbitohs and the Bulldogs. The 'Dogs will start Tony Williams in the back row while Ben Lowe comes in to the Souths pack, at lock, replacing the suspended Jeff Lima.
Halfback Albert Kelly returns for the Titans in their must-win clash with the Warriors on Saturday evening, while Jerome Ropati is back for the Warriors, playing his first match in three months. Ashley Harrison returns to lock for the Titans, Luke Douglass will start at prop and Ben Ridge and Ryan James are on the bench.
In Townsville on Saturday, only one of the three Sims brothers will play. Korbin Sims makes way for the return of Neville Costigan on the Knights bench, while Scott Bolton replaces the suspended Ashton Sims on the Cowboys bench.
Apart from sacking coach David Furner, the Raiders have made wholesale changes for their clash with the sea Eagles on Sunday. Bill Tupou will make his Raiders debut in the centres, Anthony Milford moves to the halves, Reece Robinson starts at fullback and Sami Sauiluma returns on the wing. Paul Vaughan and Shaun Berrigan start at lock and hooker respectively, with Joel Edwards and Glen Buttriss on the bench.
In other team news - the Broncos and Panthers are both unchanged for their clash on Friday night, and the Sea Eagles have selected the same side for their Raiders clash on Sunday, with Anthony Watmough cleared to play. - TONY DURKIN
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