Looking back: Ex-All Black halfback Justin Marshall in action for the Classic All Blacks against a French selection in Queenstown last year
Queenstown ex-All Black Justin Marshall has opened up on his shame at mouthing off when exiting international rugby.
In a candid interview, the All Black of 10 years admits carrying on like a pork chop when finishing in 2005. Marshall also reveals how a team drinking session – which he led and that disgusted then-coach Sir Graham Henry – went horribly wrong.
The gutsy halfback, discussing passages about him in Henry’s new book Final Word, admits major regret about his conduct when his All Black career ended.
Marshall says: “I certainly didn’t enjoy the way I exited All Black rugby. I ran my mouth off in the media and a few other areas.
“In hindsight, I was really disappointed in the way I ended my career and the way I conducted myself. I felt the world was against me and I felt like it was a bit of a kick in the guts that Henry wasn’t interested in me. I kind of sulked a bit and vented in the media. When I look back on it, it was a point in my career I really regret.”
Halfback admits booze sesh ‘out of control’
Ex-All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry’s new book reveals his horror at a 2004 team drinking session part-run by now Queenstown-based Justin Marshall.
Bob Howitt’s book Final Word, published earlier this month, recounts how Henry couldn’t believe what unfolded during the ritual known as a court session in South Africa after an unsuccessful Tri-Nations campaign.
At the session, run by then-All Black halfback Marshall and first-five Carlos Spencer, the most severe drinking penalties were reserved for team officials, Final Word says.
“Graham observed a couple of his colleagues being reduced to an almost comatose state. One management member, who rarely imbibed, even finished up so intoxicated he admitted later he genuinely feared for his life!” the book says.
Henry considered it totally unacceptable for a professional team, the book says.
“He couldn’t live with that culture and resolved from that moment ... there would never be another court session.”
Marshall agrees with Henry’s assessment, saying it was the most extreme session he’d seen.
“It got way out of hand – the team doctor got so drunk he could hardly stand up and he was vomiting,” Marshall says.
Marshall, who’d experienced the amateur era when such sessions were routine, says usually it’s just beer but on this occasion players who didn’t fancy ale introduced higher-strength spirits.
“For some reason that filtered in.
"That’s not good for sculling. I totally accept it was outside the boundaries and unnecessary.
"That’s the first time I’ve ever seen spirits involved and it just took its toll on some people. I’ve never seen people completely inebriated like that. It was really bad," Marshall recalls.
"I can’t say [Henry’s] talking rubbish and it was the odd person who couldn’t handle their piss – it was out of control, well and truly.”
Final Word, by noted rugby writer Bob Howitt, reveals how on arrival as coach in 2004 Henry felt Marshall was the unofficial leader on and off the field and talked so much hardly anyone got a word in.
The book describes the All Blacks as “the JM show” and Henry’s belief Marshall had to go for a new collective leadership philosophy to develop.
Henry dropped Marshall for a 2004 European tour but brought him back later, with Marshall finishing up his career with a series win over the British Lions before playing professionally in the UK.
On his ugly, mouthy exit, Marshall says: “To Graham Henry’s credit, he handled the whole situation extremely well ... very professionally and maturely and a lot better than I did.
“And I have the utmost respect for that. I think it’s really important to let people know that ever since that time ... when meeting him, seeing him, he’s been nothing but basically a good friend and never held it against me. And to a certain extent that’s made me feel worse,” Marshall says.
Marshall, now a commentator with Sky TV, admits being very nervous the first time he had to interview Henry.
“[But] he was superb ... he never shirked, never wanted to not talk to me about anything. I came away from that thinking very highly of him.”
One thing Marshall, who racked up an impressive 81 Tests, didn’t regret was bowing out with the Lions series win.
“The Lions was a big goal. Mates like the Mehrtens, Lomus, Christian Cullens and Kronfelds, guys like that didn’t get the opportunity to do that.
“It was a great way for me to finish, to lift that trophy.”