The summer-long debate about who will wear the Wests Tigers' No. 6 jersey will be decided once and for all in an 80-minute shootout on the other side of the ditch between Josh Reynolds and Benji Marshall.
Nothing has split Reynolds and Marshall all pre-season, especially with both experienced and popular campaigners fighting fit, and now coach Michael Maguire will use the club's one and only trial against the New Zealand Warriors to settle the five-eighth debate once and for all.
In the running: Josh Reynolds has some experienced competition for the five-eight role at the Tigers.Credit:Dan Talintyre
The Tigers will spend a week in New Zealand before the March 2 season-opener.
Most fans would be divided when it comes to starting with Marshall or Reynolds in round one against Manly.
"We still don't know and it will have a fair bit to do with the trial,'' said Reynolds, as he joined new skipper Moses Mbye to present an anti-bullying program at St Charles Primary School in Ryde.
"We're getting our little stints at training. It's very different for me because when I was at the Dogs I basically had five-eighth cemented. It's a good challenge.
"Everyone might think we're going to training and we don't talk and it's me against him. It's the total opposite. He's done a lot in the game and I find him a really good half and I learn off him all the time.
"Even 'Madge' [Maguire] said he's never been in this position where he has two pretty good five-eighths competing for the one position. He's said he wants to try and work us all into the [team] so we can all play, but it's hard to do.
"I've been a part of this before with 'Hokko' [Trent Hodkinson] and Moses at the Dogs. Someone is always going to not feel the greatest about it.
"You can't go into the season saying, 'I don't mind what happens'. You'd be lying to yourself if you said you didn't want to start in that position. It's why you play.
Legend: Benji Marshall is approaching Godfather status at Leichhardt, but a starting spot isn’t assured.Credit:Wests Tigers
"People know me and him will do whatever it takes for the team, but it's our preferred position.''
Given the run of injuries Reynolds and Marshall have suffered, both will get their chance to start in the No.6 jersey at various stages. Marshall played much more than he anticipated last year after Reynolds played just five games because of a hamstring issue and then a shoulder injury.
Club pin-up Marshall would love first dibs entering his 17th and potentially final season at the club he loves, while Reynolds would be keen to give the Tigers some return on his $800,000-a-season contract.
A natural runner of the ball, Reynolds said Maguire had encouraged him to utilise his teammates rather than back his instincts and charge into a hole.
"Under Madge, there's an emphasis on creating space for someone else rather than myself,'' Reynolds said.
"If I saw a hole I'd go for it, but now it's more about me opening up that hole for someone else and trying to score off the back of that.''
Luke Brooks would enjoy some consistency in the halves department given he has put up with a constant rotation of five-eighth partners, not to mention take orders from his fifth NRL coach in as many seasons.
Brooks picked up a stray stud and split the bottom of his nose on Tuesday, but will not miss any training. It was unfortunate timing with the club to have their official mugshots taken by broadcasters Nine on Wednesday.
Mbye quipped: "His modelling career is gone. He's worth a squillion. He'll be sweet.''
As for the strengths of the five-eighth contenders, Mbye said: "With Josh, it's always been his character and energy and morale around the group. If you're down, he's a momentum swinger and has that 'X factor'.
"Everyone knows Benji, his experience, he's been there and done it, won the premiership, captained his club and country and played nearly 300 games. The list goes on with 'Benj'.''
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