Benji Marshall hits back amid NRL controversy over Wests Tigers coach's family holiday

Marshall jetted off to Fiji with wife Zoe and their kids when the Tigers had the bye.

Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall has defended his decision to jet off to Fiji for a mid-season family holiday saying he felt it was necessary to "recharge and refresh". The Tigers currently sit second-last on the NRL ladder with just two wins from 11 games so far this year, and Marshall's side are coming off back-to-back wooden spoons.

But he and CEO Shane Richardson took the club's Round 13 bye as an opportunity to leave the country, with Marshall heading off overseas to spend time away with his family, while Richardson travelled to the UK in an attempt to recruit players for the struggling franchise. The pair copped their share of criticism for the decision and after returning from his holiday ahead of the Tigers' must-win match against the Dragons on Friday, the rookie coach said he still feels it was the right decision.

Pictured Benji Marshall left and right with his wife Zoe
Benji Marshall flew to Fiji with his wife Zoe and their kids when the Wests Tigers had the bye. Image: Getty

"I told all my staff to have the time off, mentally freshen up, and not even think about footy," Marshall told The Daily Telegraph. "In my view, it’s important to recharge and refresh.

"I’ve played under a lot of coaches, including Wayne Bennett, and sometimes when you’re going through a rough trot like we’ve experienced with eight losses, doing more isn’t always the answer. That doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t care or work less. You want fresh energy.

"We've had 11 games straight. Yes, I’m in Fiji. I could have had these days off in New Zealand or even Sydney. Is it that big a difference? We’ll get back to work on Sunday and prepare for St George-Illawarra."

TAMWORTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 11: Benji Marshall head coach of the Tigers looks on during the round 10 NRL match between Wests Tigers and Newcastle Knights at Scully Park, on May 11, 2024, in Tamworth, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
After a promising start to 2024, the Tigers have since gone winless in their last eight matches.

After a positive start to the 2024 season, Marshall hasn't been able to lead his side to sustained success as yet. The Tigers coach was fast-tracked into the head coaching role at the expense of Tim Sheens in an attempt to breathe fresh life into the club.

But as they sit in second last and with a strong possibility of collecting the wooden spoon for the third straight season, his decision to leave the country drew the ire of multiple footy pundits. Discussing the situation on NRL 360 last week, Gorden Tallis said iconic coaches such as Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy would never even think of going on holiday in the middle of a season. "Do you think Craig Bellamy, he’s a 20-to-30-year coach, do you think that he goes away to Fiji?” Tallis asked.

“Do you think Wayne Bennett does? If you’re coaching against those guys and they’re putting in more hours, normally they would do a better job than you, that’s all I’m saying.”

Braith Anasta said taking a short holiday away wouldn't matter if they were winning games but in the current state should be doing all they can to turn things around. "If they’re winning more games, no one’s got a problem with it, right?" Anasta added. “It’s a bad look because they’re going terrible.”


The decision to go on a short vacation to Fiji comes after Marshall was questioned earlier this year about whether he was putting in enough hours, especially in his rookie year as Tigers coach. After taking on the head coaching role at the joint venture, it was always going to be a big task to bring success back to a club starved of it for almost two decades.

And in March Marshall's work ethic came under the spotlight after The Daily Telegraph reported he had been arriving at pre-season training sessions after some of the players and other staff members.

"You don't play 347 games with a poor work ethic," Marshall responded after his work ethic was questioned in a press conference. "The timing when we're about to play our first game, haven't coached a game officially is disappointing. I didn't want to have to justify the way I do things, but what I don't like is when things are told that are not true.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 09: West Tigers assistant coach Benji Marshall looks on ahead of the NRL trial match between New Zealand Warriors and Wests Tigers at Mt Smart Stadium on February 09, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Benji Marshall's work ethic came into question in pre-season.

"You ask anyone in the building, I'm in here at quarter-to-six training with the staff before the players get in so they see us doing the hard yards before they come. Coaching-wise I know I've got a lot to learn and I have to work hard."

Marshall argued that it was unrealistic to suggest that coaches, especially those with young families, should put every moment of their day into their job. "What's a 24-7 coach? Who says I don't (live and breathe the job)?" Marshall asked.

"I come into work early before the players. Work as hard as we can until we get what we need done. Then we go home. Because I prioritise my family between 5-8pm every night to find a work/life balance, that doesn't mean I don't care about my job or care about working hard. I don't get it."