Rugby League

Penrith Panthers young gun Te Maire Martin puts hand up for NSW Cup

Te Maire Martin is the talk of the town in Penrith, but the Panthers rookie recruit insists he would benefit from a stint in the NSW Cup before making his NRL debut.

Martin was the star of the show in Penrith's 24-20 trial victory over Canterbury last Saturday night, and is expected to put pressure on veteran halves Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace for a starting spot in round one.

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But the Junior Kiwi, who is living with Penrith skipper Matt Moylan, is adamant his game would benefit from being tested in reserve grade before walking out into the pressure-cooker environment of the NRL.

"To be honest, I'd like to have a good stint of time in the NSW Cup team," Martin told Fairfax Media.

"I've only ever played one game of NSW Cup with the Tigers. I don't want to rush anything. If I do get the call-up I feel ready to take it all on.

"At the same time, I don't want to get shoved in there too early and get a bit gun shy because I wasn't ready.

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"Gus [Phil Gould] has told me that, 'We're not going to rush you into anything, but we're not going to hold you back from anything either.' He said if I'm ready I'll get my shot, but until then I'll keep working hard at training."

Martin's decision to leave the Tigers for a three-year deal at the Panthers almost did not eventuate.

On the rise: Panthers back Te Maire Martin makes a break during the trial against the Bulldogs.
On the rise: Panthers back Te Maire Martin makes a break during the trial against the Bulldogs. Photo: Getty Images

Paul Green was keen to lure the 20-year-old to North Queensland, with Martin mesmerised by the prospect of learning from Johnathan Thurston.

While he has plenty of admiration for Tigers halves Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses, his decision to leave the joint venture was based on a desire to pick the brains of some of the game's more experienced playmakers.

While Thurston was a huge drawcard, Panthers general manager Gould came in late to convince him Penrith would be the best destination for his career to develop.

"When I was about to make my choice, I was really keen on going to the Cowboys because of Thurston," Martin said.

"I wanted to go up there and be his tail. Be with him all the time to better my game. I was almost about to go there until I spoke with Gus. He laid it out for me on how he thinks it will work in the future. That won me over in the end."

Martin, who is considered one of the best young halves in the game, has been likened to a young Benji Marshall. He showed that on his way to the try line in the trial against the Bulldogs, but the well-spoken New Zealander says there are aspects of his game that need plenty of improvement.

"I know there's been a bit of talk about me, but there's a lot of room for me to improve," he said. "What you seen in the highlights are all the good stuff. You don't see all the mistakes I make at training. Wallace and Soward have been around for a while and they do stuff at training that blows me away. Realistically, they will be starting round one, that's what I think anyway."

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