Blues coach Sir John Kirwan will meet with rugby league star Benji Marshall in Sydney on Sunday in a bid to sign him.
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan will hold talks with rugby league star Benji Marshall in Sydney on Sunday in a bid to lure him to the Auckland-based franchise.
Kirwan revealed they will discuss three positional options, the prospect of an extended break after the NRL season, and suggest a two-year deal to bring Marshall to the Blues.
Blues CEO Andy Dalton will join Kirwan on the trip to Sydney, which signals the start of genuine negotiations although a formal offer is unlikely to be made yet.
While Kirwan meets Marshall, Dalton will sit down with the 28-year-old's manager, Martin Tauber, to present a package more appealing than that of the Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels, who are also trying secure his signature.
“It's the next stage; a case of moving it to the next level,” Kirwan told Fairfax Media.
“We'll be a lot closer to knowing which direction we're going after this meeting.
“This weekend is about sitting down together and making sure we're on the same page; give Benji the vision of the franchise and talk to him about what we want from players coming into the franchise.
“We're not going to be rushed or pressured about the possibility of losing him – that's not what we are about.”
Kirwan is prepared to be flexible on many fronts in an attempt to land Marshall's services. He will welcome Marshall's input and respect his right to plan his own future.
In an ideal world, though, Marshall would skip this year's rugby league World Cup and sit out the NPC to refresh for the next challenge of his career.
“When the Tigers finish if he does decide to come to us and we can work some sort of deal out then we'll give him a bloody good break because the next two years of his life are going to be pretty intense,” added Kirwan.
“Most contracts are two-years. Not too many players want to do five years as they don't know where the market is going. We'll see what he comes to the party with.
“Two years is probably enough for both of us to get an idea. For me it's a case of getting this first face-to-face meeting out of the way and seeing if this next phase is possible.”
As the former coach of Japan, Kirwan's connections in Japanese rugby is an advantage. He could facilitate a lucrative 12-game deal – worth up to $1 million – to offset Marshall's loss of earnings from switching codes.
A move to Japan, however, may be better suited to the end of next year, once Marshall has settled.
“That has to come from him,” explained Kirwan.
“Ideally we'd want him to come over and rest after the season, then have a big pre-season. Japan would be something I would be waiting for them to talk about rather than me offer,” he said.
Kirwan is confident Marshall won't need any experience in the 15-man game to be ready for next year's Super Rugby competition.
He feels New Zealand league international could handle playing fullback, inside centre and fly-half.
“That's one of the things I'm going to talk to him about,” he said.
“We'll be talking about positional play. At the end of the day he's a lot like Sonny Bill [Williams]. He's a special player. Benji could play at fullback and in the midfield.
“All you've got to do is look at the quality of the player. You've got to realise he's played rugby until he was 16.
“He's not foreign to the game. He played a lot of touch [rugby]. He knows [All Blacks scrum-half] Piri [Weepu] really well.
“The most important thing would be not to put any pressure on him to perform straight away in the transition period.”