Beau Ryan has paid tribute to his former Wests Tigers teammate Benji Marshall.
After Benji, 36, announced his retirement from the NRL on Wednesday, Beau took to Instagram to call it a ‘sad day for rugby league’.
‘He changed the game and inspired a generation of kids to “step like Benji,”‘ wrote the former athlete, referring to Marshall’s legendary evasive moves on the field.
Big fan: Beau Ryan (pictured) has paid tribute to his former Wests Tigers teammate Benji Marshall
Ryan continued, ‘Generous and loyal you would always put others before yourself. Enjoy time with your beautiful fam and enjoy the next journey.’
‘I still feel blessed I got to play with you, and I know the other boys feel the same,’ he wrote, before signing off, ‘Life starts now bro.’
The tribute comes after Marshall confirmed he is hanging up the boots at a press conference in Brisbane on Wednesday afternoon.
The five-eighth made his NRL debut in 2003, with his silky skills and trademark sidestep quickly making him a fan favourite with Wests Tigers and rugby league fans.
Teammates: After Benji, 36, announced his retirement from the NRL on Wednesday, Beau took to Instagram to call it a ‘sad day for rugby league’. Beau and Benji seen here in 2012
NRL legend Benji Marshall (pictured) announced his retirement from the sport at a press conference on Tuesday
South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett (pictured right) lauded the achievements of Marshall, in what was a glittering career
The doting father of two can now spend more time with his kids, including his son Fox (pictured)
He won a premiership two years later, and went on to have stints with the St George Illawarra Dragons, Brisbane Broncos, the Tigers for a second time and this year the South Sydney Rabbitohs in what was a glittering NRL career.
Kiwi international Marshall also briefly defected to rugby union in 2014 with the Auckland Blues – only to return to the NRL and link with the Dragons after just six Super Rugby appearances.
It is believed Marshall, a father of two, made the decision to retire a few weeks ago, but kept it to himself so the grand final preparation of his team didn’t develop into an emotional circus.
Penrith ultimately spoilt what would have been the ultimate farewell for Marshall, winning the gipping decider 14-12 on Sunday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Marshall also confirmed he will take up a two year deal with Fox Sports, as he engages in a media career post the NRL (pictured, with wife Zoe and kids Fox and Ever)
Remarkably, Marshall started the year without an NRL club, but that changed following a phone call with Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett.
He felt Marshall could have an impact off the bench as a utility, and a one-year deal was quickly drawn up at Redfern.
Post the grand final, the dynamic playmaker, who chalked up 346 appearances in the NRL, spoke about how much he has cherished his final season in the code.
‘I’m extremely grateful more than anything,’ Marshall said.
‘To have the opportunity to represent this great club (Souths) and play with the players that I got to play with this year.. I’ve loved it.’
Club officials were considering handing him a new deal after Adam Reynolds’ defection to Brisbane – but the selfless Marshall has stepped aside, not wanting to halt the emergence of rising stars Blake Taaffe and Lachlan Ilias.
NRL superstar Benji Marshall also thanks his wife Zoe for her ongoing support across his career
Marshall also could have played abroad in the English Super League or even in the NRL, with the Gold Coast Titans enquiring about his availability for next season.
His legacy now remains intact, and a career in the media with Fox Sports awaits after signing a two year deal with the network.
Speaking at the press conference, Marshall reflected on a career he will look back at which much fondness.
Marshall made his NRL debut in 2003, and has forged a reputation that sees him a legend of the game in the eyes of many (pictured, with Souths teammate Cody Walker)
NRL superstar Benji Marshall can now look forward to spending more time with his family after confirming his retirement
‘I started the journey as a kid in New Zealand chasing a dream and I am content with what I was fortunate enough to achieve in the game,’ he said.
‘I am honoured and humbled by what the game has given me…19 seasons, it has been a career involving half my lifetime.’
Marshall went on to thank his family for their sacrifices – notably his wife Zoe – and is looking forward to the next stage of his life.
Bennett, who coached the pivot at two NRL clubs as well as the New Zealand test team, said Marshall was a winner on and off the field.
‘I’ve seen Benji evolve from a single man to a father with two kids,’ he said.
‘He has also mentored a number of players and influenced an entire generation of rugby league players… he should be very proud of what he achieved.’
Benji Marshall’s wife Zoe (pictured right) has a huge social media following – and no doubt will relish having her husband around to help raise their two kids