Benji Marshall doesn't know if the end of his career is nigh - but he had to laugh when hearing that his South Sydney coach might have already 'retired' him.
Wayne Bennett declared that next Sunday's NRL grand final would be the ultimate way for Marshall to bow out, with the clash against either Penrith or Melbourne ending a 16-year wait for another decider for the former Wests Tigers premiership winner.
Speaking after the side's 36-16 defeat of Manly, Bennett, who snapped up Marshall for a second time on a one-year deal when the player was thinking of retirement, said his arrival at the club and exit from the game both made perfect sense.
"He rang me up and said 'I'd love to come to South Sydney'," the coach recalled.
"I asked 'what do you want to come to South Sydney for?'
"He said, 'I think you can win the grand final'."
"And he's been wonderful ... he doesn't want to make a fuss about it, but you can't retire in a better moment than in a grand final.
"It doesn't get any better than that."
Marshall will be 37 when the next NRL preseason rolls around.
"I don't know if it's the end yet - but if he's retired me, it might be," the player joked about Bennett's post-game remarks.
This chance, he accepts, almost never came, with Bennett "saving his career two times" thanks to one-year deals at Brisbane in 2017 and again at Souths in 2021.
"I was going to retire mate, seriously," Marshall said of his mindset late last year.
"My wife, she said, 'just give Wayne a try'. So I called him and he said, 'I've got one spot left, so come and see what happens'.
"You've got to back yourself, give yourself every opportunity."
The partnership has worked for both coach and player, the former Tigers five-eighth having played "every position bar wing" in a tweaked bench utility role that he believes has also caught on at other clubs.
"I've never played lock in my life, or hooker until this year," said Marshall.
"And he gave me the confidence to go and do that, and be me, and not try to be a big forward in the middle."
Australian Associated Press