With experienced Panthers backrower Kurt Capewell sidelined for at least 10 weeks with a serious knee injury, young bull Liam Martin is determined to make the position his own.
The 23-year-old made his first appearance, since the NRL returned, last week, coming on for the injured Capewell in the opening minutes of the game.
Martin had been sidelined with his own leg problem for a number of weeks before returning against the Eels last Friday night.
“I tore my quad in one of the first weeks back from the break, so I was out for three or four weeks with that, but it’s all healed now,” he told the Weekender.
“I was a bit shocked coming on so early because I was told I’d get on at some point in the second half, so as soon as I saw Capey start limping I knew I was in for a long game.”
When Martin, who debuted with flying colours last season, hit the field in the second minute of the game he didn’t miss a beat. In his first taste of football since Round 2 against the Dragons, he recorded 126 running metres, two tackle breaks, one line break and made 37 tackles.
Martin said it was a tough initiation against one of the competition’s best sides but he’s glad he got through it and is ready to go again this Friday against Melbourne.
“It was good to get back out there, it was a long lay-off,” he said.
“To also come back to the new game format was a shock to the body but I think I adjusted pretty well.”
Penrith led for the majority of the match before Parramatta scored three tries in quick succession to steal victory late in the game.
Martin said a small lapse of concentration cost Penrith their undefeated start to the season.
“It was unfortunate we didn’t get the win. I thought we played pretty well, we just had a bit of a lapse there for a 10-minute period where they iced their opportunities,” he said.
“We were very good for periods there but then we had lapses in concentration where they came back.”
All week Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has been drumming into his side the importance of playing the full 80 minutes.
Martin said if they are going to take down the might of Melbourne tonight in Campbelltown, they’ll need to be locked in from whistle to whistle.
“Ivan said we have to be a harder team and once we get a lead we’ve got to keep the pressure on and finish the game strong,” Martin said.
“Ivan said he was proud of our effort the other night, we played well, but we have to play for the full 80 minutes.”
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.