St George-Illawarra star Benji Marshall is on the verge of ending a three-year drought without finals or Test football.
In what is the Dragons’ first finals match in the post-Wayne Bennett era, Marshall will be the point man when his side faces off against Canterbury in Saturday’s elimination final.
But the 30-year-old is also a strong chance of being selected in the Kiwis’ three-Test series against England in November, with first-choice halfback Shaun Johnson still recovering from a broken ankle.
Back-up option Thomas Leuluai wasn’t named in the Kiwis’ train-on squad on Tuesday after rupturing his knee mid-season, although rookie Tuimoala Lolohea could partner Kieran Foran in the halves.
However former Test representative Sam Perrett, who lines up against Marshall this weekend, joined a growing chorus of Kiwis, including Johnson himself, pushing for a recall for the 2008 World Cup-winning skipper to the national team.
“With his experience – he’s captained the Kiwis in the past – I think he’s still got a lot to offer,” Perrett said.
“He’s a great player, so hopefully he does get back in. I’d love to see him back in the Kiwi jersey.”
Marshall, who left the NRL for a failed stint in rugby union in 2014, last played for the Kiwis in 2012.
His last appearance in a finals fixture was with the Wests Tigers in the same year.
Perrett, who played 19 Tests for the Kiwis between 2007-13, said he still considered Marshall one of his toughest ever opponents.
“He’s always been that kind of player for me personally,” he said.
“I dread playing guys like Benji, and Chrissy Sandow in the past.
“They’re just very unpredictable and, a lot of the time, what they have a crack at comes off.”
Saturday’s clash with the Bulldogs is the Dragons’ first finals match since going down to Brisbane in the 2011 semi-final.