Billy Slater lashes out after Benji Marshall's family caught up in 'inappropriate' NRL furore

Marshall's mid-season holiday with his family saw him come under intense scrutiny.

Billy Slater has hit out at the criticism around Benji Marshall's decision to take a mid-season trip with his family to Fiji, during a recent bye round for the Wests Tigers. The entire playing squad and coaching staff were given three days off during the major bye round before the State of Origin series opener, with Marshall taking the opportunity to recharge the batteries by taking a short getaway with his wife and kids.

Considering the Tigers were in the midst of an eight-game losing streak at the time, many critics said it was a terrible look for the coach to be going on a holiday, and insisted he should have been working on a way to reverse the team's fortunes. Following the break, Marshall and his players returned to training before suffering a ninth straight defeat in last Friday night's flogging by the Dragons.

Pictured right is Billy Slater and Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall with his family on the left.
Billy Slater says criticism of Benji Marshall has been 'inappropriate' after the Wests Tigers coach decided to take a mid-season holiday with his family to Fiji. Pic: Getty

The manner of the defeat and the Tigers' wretched run of form has only heightened the scrutiny against Marshall in his rookie year as head coach. But Maroons coach Slater has thrown his support behind the first-year head coach and insists he has to be given time to make his mark at a club that has claimed two consecutive wooden spoons. Slater says the criticism against Marshall has been "inappropriate" and noted that he was copping backlash before even coaching a game.

"I feel for Benji because he probably has to feel like he has to defend himself and validate some decisions that he makes off the field which is just totally inappropriate," Slater said on Nine's The Billy Slater Podcast. "[Teams] get byes throughout the year. Players need to get away from the game. Coaches need to get away from the game.

"Benji hadn't even coached a game and he was being criticised. You gotta give people a chance. This is not an easy job to do. If you're out there criticising him and you think you can do a better job, put your hand up. At the end of the day, he's in there having a go and trying to turn things around for his club."

The Tigers' nine-game losing streak has ramped up the pressure on Marshall, with some critics suggesting the enormous task of making the Wests Tigers successful again is too big a job for a rookie coach. But Slater believes the club great - who famously won the 2005 NRL grand final with the Tigers - "is the right person for the job" and understands the fabric of the joint venture club better than most.

Marshall is still putting together a squad that fits the style of footy and direction he wants to take the club in. And the acquisition of Penrith's three-time premiership winner Jarome Luai from next season will certainly make them a more formidable side. But Marshall should take credit for having the courage to back some of his young players such as 18-year-old five-eighth Lachlan Galvin, with Slater urging critics of the coach to show patience.

Benji Marshall's Tigers are in the midst of a nine-game losing streak in the NRL. Pic: Getty
Benji Marshall's Tigers are in the midst of a nine-game losing streak in the NRL. Pic: Getty

"I believe he is the right person for the job. He's passionate about this club. He knows the game as well as anyone," Slater said. "There have been times throughout the year when this team has looked like they were moving forward.

"Consistency isn't easy in this competition. When you've got younger players, especially younger players in key positions, it is going to take time. We've heard Ricky Stuart talk about patience with these young players. You have got to be patient. At times, in the media, I feel we are a little bit impatient."

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Marshall has rung the changes for Saturday's crucial home gamw against the Gold Coast Titans at Leichhardt Oval, with Galvin left out with a hand injury and amid reports he wants out of the club. Skipper Api Koroisau has been shifted to the halves, where he will link up with Aidan Sezer, who returns from suspension. Solomona Faataape joins the 17 in place of Solomon Alaimalo (head knock) and Tallyn Da Silva has been named to play hooker, with Koroisau to take the No.7 jersey.

Off-contract five-eighth Adam Doueihi has been included in the reserves after being sidelined for more than a year from an anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered early last season. Playmaker Jayden Sullivan (finger injury) joins the club's long list of unavailable players, although centre Justin Olam has been named despite contending with a long-standing knee injury.

with AAP