Marshall's 16-year trip back to the top

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They call him the Mood Captain.

Benji Marshall is the 36-year-old teenager, the yang to Wayne Bennett's ying ahead of Sunday's NRL grand final.

The oldest player in the NRL will return to the scene, theatrically at least, of his most memorable moment when his South Sydney meet Penrith in the decider at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

Sixteen years ago a fresh-faced Marshall darted, stepped, shimmied and flick-passed his way into rugby league folklore as Wests Tigers won the grand final to lift the Provan-Summons Trophy.

Debuting in 2003, Marshall has staved off retirement and is finally back for a shot at another, proving to be of unique bench utility value for Bennett and comedic value away from the field.

"I think he likes me ... I'm not your average guy," Marshall, who has spent the week insisting he hasn't made a call on retirement, said.

"I crack a lot of jokes and when he's being serious I reckon I'm pretty good at picking the time to do it.

"They call me the Mood Captain; I just be myself and that's what Wayne loves about me."

Young squad members have relished their season with Marshall, particularly at the pointy end where his ability to ease any grand final stresses have been appreciated.

"It's probably because I reckon I can mix the same maturity with them; I can be quite an idiot and act pretty young," Marshall said.

"There's an art to it though, in terms of letting them in a bit. You get to know them, make them feel comfortable so they're able to talk to you."

Asked their thoughts of him, "that" flick pass always rates a mention with teammates, even if like 22-year-old Blake Taaffe they only saw it a few years later in a highlights reel.

Jaxson Paulo reckons time slows down when Marshall gets the ball, while Jacob Host has leant on the veteran during his time at Redfern and St George Illawarra.

"He really did take us under his wing and guide us and to be with him here is special," Host said.

"He's like a fine wine; it's special to be a part of."

Marshall isn't one to dwell on his 2005 exploits though.

"How do they even know, half of them weren't even born," he laughed.

"There's one kid, not in the team this week, but he wasn't even born when I debuted.

"I could be his dad ... actually I make his dinner already.

"That final was so long ago though, I'm just a completely different player from then.

"So different, more mature, know more about the game. Back then I was an up-and-coming, rising star. Now I'm just the old dude off the bench."

Marshall reckons Bennett has twice saved him from retirement, first recruiting him to Brisbane in 2017 and again on a one-year deal to the Rabbitohs this season.

"We just had this bond and connection; he was always up front and honest, loved the way I played and I always found with him that I played good footy," he said.

Bennett said he was an "incredible player and a pleasure to coach" and, sitting alongside him at Friday's grand final press conference, rival Ivan Cleary agreed.

It was Cleary who took him back at Wests for a second stint in 2018.

"I feel lucky that I was able to spend some time with him, I concur with what Wayne said, he's good to have around and still a great player," he said.

While he may be "good to have around" it's not why Marshall is still playing though.

"Wayne knows me and my biggest priority is performance on the weekend," Marshall said with the glint in his eye returning.

"I didn't come in to just mentor young kids. I came here to win a grand final and now we're a chance of that this week."

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