Penrith Panthers rookie Te Maire Martin has lived up to the hype after he enjoyed the perfect NRL debut last Saturday night at Pepper Stadium.
The 20-year-old Kiwi half was a late inclusion for Penrith’s must-win game against the Brisbane Broncos and he didn’t disappoint – scoring a try and kicking the match winning field goal with just minutes remaining on the clock.
It was certainly a debut no one will forget anytime soon, especially Martin, who didn’t expect Penrith’s first win of the season to be all about him.
“It’s sort of like a dream to be honest,” Martin said yesterday.
“Just to get my debut is a big achievement for me; it’s been a goal of mine this year and to get it this early in the season is something I’m proud of.
“To get the win on debut is massive; I couldn’t thank the boys enough. They did a lot for me in the off-season and it’s something I won’t forget that’s for sure.”
Since arriving from the Wests Tigers over the summer, Martin has been a fan favourite among Panthers fans despite not playing a single game of first grade.
With potential and skill likened to that of Benji Marshall, supporters were desperate to see the Junior Kiwi finally get a crack at the big time.
Martin admits he owes a lot to Penrith’s experienced halves in Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace for helping him since he arrived.
“Wallace and Soward have helped me out a lot, they’ve taught me how to keep my composure,” he said.
“Even on the field Wallace was telling me to do this, do that, while Soward really took the reigns of the game and made my job easier.
“More time with them will make me a better player.”
Soward, who paired up with Martin in halves last weekend, praised the youngster for staying composed in the closing stages of the one-point thriller.
“Te Maire’s a fantastic kid and he’s very level headed,” he said.
“He played fantastic last night and he really enjoyed himself out there.”
Martin will hope to continue his excellent start to NRL life when he takes on childhood hero Benji Marshall and the St George Illawarra Dragons this Sunday afternoon at WIN Stadium.
“Benji has been one of my idols since I was little and I would love to play against him,” Martin said.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.