When Panthers backrower Kurt Capewell went down with a serious knee injury back in June, Liam Martin was determined to make the number 12 jersey his own.
Two months on and the 23-year-old from country NSW won’t be giving back the jumper without a fight.
Since the Temora product landed the starting second-row spot in Round 6 against Melbourne, the Panthers haven’t lost, and Martin has taken his game to soaring new heights.
With Capewell due back from injury within the next month, Martin was diplomatic with his response when asked about relinquishing his position in the backrow.
“We’ll see what happens… I’m happy to play any role on the team depending what the coaching staff wants,” he said.
Martin’s rather polite answer could be due to the fact that Capewell – the man he’s technically filling in for – has been instrumental in turning him into the tearaway he is on the paddock.
Martin said Capewell, along with James Fisher-Harris and Zane Tetevano, have helped take his game to another level.
“Capey’s been huge for me this year,” he admitted.
“He’s always in my ear about various things and has been a big benefit to me.
“Fish and Zane as well. When you’re doing defensive drills with them, they’re always going 100 per cent. If they’re not doing that at training, then you go into games not ready for it.”
Martin and fellow backrower Viliame Kikau will have their hands full this Saturday when they mark up against Canberra powerhouses John Bateman and Elliott Whitehead as well as new recruit and former Panther Corey Harawira-Naera.
Martin said while it’s going to be a tough battle against last year’s Grand Finalists, his side – currently sitting in first – don’t fear anyone right now.
“This year that’s certainly the feeling around the club, when we play our footy to the best of our ability, we can match pretty much anyone,” he said.
“It’s good leading the competition but we know that each week, teams are going to be coming after us because we have that number one spot.
“Canberra will be tough; they always are when you play them. They’ve got Bateman back and Harawira-Naera is down there as well now. I think it should be a good match this weekend.”
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.