SYDNEY (Reuters) - Benji Marshall, the former international Player of the Year who helped New Zealand to a stunning World Cup triumph in 2008, announced his retirement on Wednesday after nearly two decades at the top of the game.
A playmaker of immense skill, Marshall played 346 games in Australia's National Rugby League -- mostly for Wests Tigers -- and made his last appearance for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Sunday's Grand Final loss to the Penrith Panthers.
"I feel privileged and grateful to have had the career that I have had," the 36-year-old said in a news release.
"I am extremely proud of my career. I’m proud of the longevity of playing 19 seasons, proud of winning a premiership, proud to represent my country and to win a World Cup, and I’m proud of winning a Golden Boot too.
"But the thing of which I'm most proud is the countless times I have had to pick myself up and fight back from the many setbacks that were thrown at me throughout my career."
Marshall arrived in Australia as a 16-year-old on a high school scholarship and made an immediate impression in the NRL for the Tigers soon afterwards with his dazzling footwork and no-look passes.
Of the many passes he made over his career, it was the round-the-back flick that sent Pat Richards in to finish off a 90-metre try in the 2005 NRL Grand Final that will be best remembered.
Three years later, Marshall scored a try and kicked two conversions as the Kiwis beat Australia 34-20 in one of the greatest rugby league upsets of all time to win the World Cup for the first time.
He won the Golden Boot as the best player in the world in 2010 but left Wests Tigers to play rugby union in New Zealand in 2014.
Marshall featured in only six matches before returning to the NRL for spells with the St George Dragons, Brisbane Broncos and a couple more seasons at the Tigers before his swansong at South Sydney.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)