Benji Marshall is, and always has been, a risk taker. But for his next trick, the player whose step and flick pass challenged the game and ultimately changed it, will take his biggest gamble of all.


Marshall is seeking a release from the final two years of his contract with Wests Tigers and, at age 28, has decided he wants to play rugby union. The development will stun many who believed Marshall would not leave rugby league and the Tigers.


But perhaps it shouldn't. He has taken risks since he made his debut as a schoolboy in 2003, and in fact well before that. While he has refined his role since, he proves constantly that he will not be shackled.


Marshall was stung by his round-10 benching against South Sydney and left disappointed and dismayed when a deal he believed had been agreed to by Tigers officials was not honoured. So, while still showing loyalty to the Tigers in one capacity by refusing to play against them, he will likely join either the Auckland Blues or the NSW Waratahs. He could not be accused of greed – he would earn more by staying where he is.

His loss will of course be felt. Rugby league has been dealt a blow by Israel Folau's decision to spurn the advances of Parramatta and sign with the Waratahs, before showing the code what it is missing during as one of the stand-out Wallabies against the British and Irish Lions. Marshall attracts sponsors and supporters to Wests Tigers. While his star has faded somewhat recently he still believes his best is yet to come.


While some doubt that, he has proved many wrong before. Remember, this was the player whose career was believed to be over on a number of occasions, largely as a result of four shoulder reconstructions. With so many foreshadowing his demise, he took great pride in playing every match in a wonderful 2010 season.


Injuries no longer curse him, but the doubts remain. They will no doubt continue as he attempts a switch of codes.

He has not played rugby union since his teens, and will need time to make the transition a successful one. Many have mused that Marshall might be best served by undertaking a new challenge elsewhere. They might not have considered rugby union though. That is a significant challenge, but Marshall believes this is a risk worth taking.