BENJI Marshall will be a man on a mission this weekend with the off-contract No.7 out to stop the Dragons from hitting a $6m a year off-contract playmaker market headlined by Australian halfback Cooper Cronk.
Marshall laughed off a $300,000 a year extension offer from the Dragons last week in a move that has put him in a fight for salary cap cash against Cronk, Corey Norman, Moses Mybe, Luke Keary, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks as a star studded list of halves hits the open market.
The Sunday Telegraph enlisted several rugby league experts to help value the best playmaking market in recent memory and Marshall – who will lead the Dragons against the Sharks today - rated 7th on the most wanted list, sandwiched between Souths’ next big thing Luke Keary and Melbourne’s Mr. Reliable Blake Green.
Benji Marshall is playing for a new contract. Picture: Mark Evans
Marshall will go head-to-head with former NSW No.6 James Maloney at Shark Park to prove he is worth more than the $300,000 a year he knocked back to sign a one year extension with St George-Illawarra.
So is he worth any more?
Yes, according to the experts we surveyed – but not by much.
“He would be worth $400,000 a year tops,’’ said a leading NRL recruitment manager.
“There is not much blue sky when it comes to Benji but he still offers enough. His value will ultimately come down to the market and he is competing against some fair players.’’
Cronk has topped the list with an estimated value of $1.1m a year.
Cooper Cronk is yet to announce his future.
The current Kangaroos No.7 and Maroons star has enlisted expert agent George Mimis to negotiate his last deal – and could move to Sydney to be closer to his TV stunner partner Tara Rushton.
“We haven’t spoken to anyone except the Storm,’’ Mimis, who was in Melbourne this week, said.
“We are going to go through the process here first and foremost and won’t speak to anyone else unless we need to.’’
Cronk’s big competition for cash will come from Corey Norman with the young gun set to command at least $800,000 – maybe more.
“He is a player on the rise,’’ said another player manager.
“He is young and only going to get better and will be chased as much as Cronk.’’
Corey Norman is off contract with the Eels too.
Bulldogs star Mbye made the list at No.3 – but seems certain to sign a new deal with the Bulldogs this month.
“It is a formality,’’ said a Bulldogs spokesman.
“But the signature is not on the contract yet.’’
The Dragons distanced themselves from Cronk last month but refused to comment yesterday following Marshall’s contract extension snub.
They will be forced to come up with a revised offer for Marshall or have a crack at one of the names on the star studded list.
“The pieces won’t start falling in place until Cronk’s future is decided,’’ said the recruitment manager.
“He holds the key to the market.’’
Moses Mbye should command some decent money when he looks for a new contract.
THE TOP TEN
1. Cooper Cronk – $1.1m
2. Corey Norman - $800,000
3. Moses Mbye - $750,000
4. Mitchell Moses – $550,00
5. Luke Brooks – $500,000
6. Luke Keary - $450,000
7. Benji Marshall - $400,000
8. Blake Green – $250,000
9. Jeff Robson - $200,000
10. Luke Kelly - $175,000