Martin not ready to rush things

It’s fair to say Te Maire Martin made a fairly impressive start to his Penrith Panthers career.

Having signed for the NRL franchise last year from the Wests Tigers, the rookie linked up with his new team-mates for their preseason campaign, making an immediate impression in a warm-up victory over Canterbury.

Ahead of his first season with the Panthers, the youngster made a real case for a starting spot in the club’s opening game of the new campaign against the Raiders. The half back may be being tipped to challenge experienced duo Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace this year, but Martin has admitted he wouldn’t be averse to a spell in the NSW Cup before being thrown into the NRL.

The Junior Kiwi might be one of the most exciting young players at the club but a stint in reserve grade rugby could well be what Martin needs to continue his development. Having come through the ranks with the Tigers, it wasn’t long before a number of rival NRL clubs began to take notice of him.

Penrith had to battle to beat other clubs to securing Martin’s services, most notably North Queensland. Paul Green made a real effort to sign the half back, offering the prospect of continuing his development under the guidance of Johnathan Thurston.

As we approach the end of February, the Cowboys look to be a very strong team this year, priced as short as 13/2 with bet365 to go all the way this season. But Penrith general manager Phil Gould put together a strong enough case to convince Martin to join a Panthers team that aren’t anywhere near as popular with the betting public. With some tipping Martin to be one of the best young players in the league, this has been seen as a real signal of intent from a Penrith team coming off the back of a disappointing 11th place finish in 2015.

Drawing comparisons to a young Benji Marshall, there is plenty of hype already surrounding the Kiwi. But rather than jump straight into the big leagues, Martin has now made it clear he would be open to the idea of a slower introduction into the starting line-up than some might want. That said, the rookie’s performance against the Bulldogs showed just what a talent he is and Penrith head coach Anthony Griffin could be forgiven for being tempted to see just how well Martin can adapt to senior rugby.

The Panthers have really strengthened their roster during the offseason, adding nine new players to their ranks in Trent Merrin, Zach Dockar-Clay, Benjamin Garcia, Andrew Heffernan, Viliame Kikau, Sitaleki Akauola, Suaia Matagi. Peta Hiku and Martin. While a number of players have also left the club, there is a strong feeling that the group that start round one of the new season is a much stronger one than finished the 2015 way out of contention. While aspirations of reaching the Grand Final might be somewhat premature, the future definitely looks a lot brighter than it did this time last year.

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