Retired NRL great Benji Marshall has shed more light on the circumstances of his childhood after revealing that he has never known the identity of his birth father.
Marshall made the candid reveal during an epidsode of Channel 9’s Celebrity Apprentice earlier this week, with the 346-game NRL star winning the series in Tuesday’s finale.
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The 37-year-old joined radio hosts Fitzy and Wippa on NovaFM on Wednesday morning to further elaborate on his life story.
Marshall’s mother Lydia gave birth to the future rugby league great when she was 15, and Marshall grew up not having any idea who is father was.
He said on the Celebrity Apprentice that he had only asked his mother one time who his father was, with her response convincing him not to ask again.
“When I asked my mum who my dad was — I’ll never forget the look on her face,” he said.
“The look of fear, worry, it actually made me scared.
“I never ever asked her again. I still don’t know until this day.”
Marshall’s mind is still made up as far as wanting to meet his father goes, but he admitted curiosity lingers as to his heritage.
“I don’t want to know my dad,” Marshall tolf Fitzy and Wippa.
“I’m one of those people, though that like if there’s like toxic people in my life, I can just cut them off and that’s it. I’m not really dealing with you again.
“But I do have this want to know like, what am I? Am I like, English? Am I, I don’t know. Like what half-nationality wise.”
In the radio appearance, Marshall also shared how questions about his lineage have followed him throughout his career.
A documentary was produced when the New Zealand born dynamo made his debut in the NRL, but Marshall said there were unintended consequences of it airing.
“After I made my debut, I did this documentary thing in New Zealand and said I’d never met my dad and I had 10 emails from people saying they were my dad,” he said.
Benji Marshall opens up about father’s absence on Celebrity Apprentice
Marshall said during the Celebrity Apprentice that the absence of his father had left him feeling as though there was a part of himself missing.
Speaking about his life growing up, Marshall said there were times he felt unsafe in his own home as a child, resorting to wedging up to walls and defending himself with a butter knife.
“This is a story that I’ve never told. I’ve never talked about this publicly. I’ve never ever talked about this because it means so much to me,” he said.
“That’s not the real me. You know how I know that? Because I don’t even know the real me. There’s a half of me missing that I haven’t found out about. I don’t know my real dad. I don’t know my culture. I don’t know my nationality. Who am I?”
Tragically, Marshall said that all he had wanted as a child was to feel safe and loved.
“I have this vivid memory of a seven-year-old little Maori boy sitting in his lounge room holding a butter knife, scared, sitting back in the dark in the corner so no one could come from behind me and get me,” Marshall said.
“It’s tough. All I wanted was someone to save me. Someone to tuck me in. Someone to love me. All I wanted was a dad.”
Marshall retired from the NRL at the end of last season, bringing to a close a career that spanned four clubs and was highlighted by a 2005 premiership with Wests Tigers.
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