Rugby league legend Benji Marshall has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in the Queen’s Honours list, after 18 years in the game.
Marshall (Ngāi Tūhoe) told NZME he’d be stoked if he’s inspired just one young person to get involved in the game.
"I was just a small kid from Whakatāne with no right to get to where I got to in achieving all the things I did," he said.
"Hopefully with me doing what I did it inspires others, especially young Kiwi kids. If you can change one life, that's enough."
At 37-years-old Marshall only retired last year and holds the record as the longest-serving Kiwis captain.
His more notable years were spent with the West Tigers, in 2005, then 20-year-old Marshall helped lead the team to the NRL title.
Despite battling several injury complaints Marshall also had a spell with the Souths; and in rugby union in 2014 when he debuted for the Blues in Super Rugby.
Throughout his career Marshall was steadfast to the Kiwis’ cause; proving pivotal to the historic 2008 World Cup Win.
Marshall played 31 tests for the national side.
Benji Marshall in one of his final outings for the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium in 2021 / Facebook
At 16 years old, Benji was offered a scholarship to play rugby league for a high school in Queensland and made his first-grade debut in 2003.
NZ Māori rugby league secretary Titia Graham says Marshall’s success is something all rangatahi Māori can aspire too.
“He didn’t come through the big clubs from Auckland or Wellington, he came from Whakatāne, and so he had a humble beginning. He had huge whānau support throughout his career and that also made a difference to his success,” she said.
Since hanging up his boots, Marshall has moved into the commentary box as a host for Australia's FOX Sports.
Marshall's also hosted a number of events for the Souths Cares charity, last year's 'dream big' initiative supported rangatahi to excel within arts, culture, sport or academia.