Penrith Panthers five-eighth Te Maire Martin has signed a three year deal with the North Queensland Cowboys.
The 21-year-old will join the Townsville-based club effective immediately, meaning he has played his last game in Panthers colours.
The Panthers issued a statement this afternoon confirming Martin would be leaving the club.
“Te Maire came to us with the hope of developing his career,” Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould AM said.
“He made his NRL debut at the Panthers and it led to him earning representative honours for New Zealand at the Four Nations.
“I have no doubt Te Maire will have a long and successful career in the NRL, and we wish him all the best for the future.”
Martin has spoken to Fairfax Media about his switch to Townsville.
“I still have a long time to play first grade,” he said.
“I can learn off Thurston as much as I can – it’s only going to make me a better player. When I got a call from my manager saying the Cowboys were interested, it was hard to turn down when Thurston is up there. I’m at the early stages of my learning so what better way to learn than from JT himself.”
Martin made a memorable debut for Penrith last year, kicking the winning field goal in a match against Brisbane, but his halves partnership with Nathan Cleary failed to click this year and he was axed ahead of the round eight clash with Parramatta.
He has not returned to first grade since, playing with the club’s reserve grade side.
Ironically, the Cowboys tried to sign Martin several years ago when he was playing with the Wests Tigers but the Kiwi international joined Penrith instead.
“When I turned them down before, there was a part of me that just wanted to play first grade,” Martin told Fairfax.
“Penrith was a good opportunity. I didn’t really look too much at the learning side of it back then. Now I have a clearer understanding.”
Penrith and the Cowboys are scheduled to play each other next weekend but it’s unlikely that Martin would line up against his former club so quickly.
Meanwhile, it’s understood the Panthers have also released centre Peta Hiku. He’ll join UK Super League club Warrington.