Penrith coach Anthony Griffin believes youngster Te Maire Martin is only just shaking off the adrenaline rush that accompanies every rookie’s rise to the NRL.
Now the real challenge is about to kick in.
In his first three matches, Martin has been matched up against Brisbane’s Anthony Milford, England international Gareth Widdop and in-form Parramatta No.6 Corey Norman.
On Saturday, it’s North Queensland’s premiership-winning halves Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan in what shapes as Martin’s toughest assignment in first grade to date.
“He won’t get too many better initiations,” Griffin said.
“He’s doing his job defensively – he’s just got to keep preparing hard. He’s going to get a real good opposition this weekend to play against, but I’ve been happy with him.”
Until now, the 20-year-old has only shown flashes of his potential.
The Junior Kiwi has mostly played second fiddle to chief orchestrator Jamie Soward and veteran playmaker Peter Wallace, with Martin’s 67 total touches since debut exactly half that of Soward’s 134.
But Griffin reckons he’s only just getting warmed up.
“The way he finished last week, his last 20 minutes was very good,” he said.
“He started to find a way to get the ball in his hands, which isn’t easy when he’s playing with a couple of experienced blokes like Wallace and Soward. When the heat’s on, they naturally want the ball.”
Griffin said all Martin needed to do was prepare himself mentally and get his defence in order.
“If he gets those two things right, his confidence will build. Once emotion goes out of it, and the adrenaline, he’s got to learn how to hang onto that every week. He’ll be ready when he’s ready,” he said.
Cowboys coach Paul Green hinted some traffic coming Martin’s way.
“He’s down on that right edge – it’s Coops and those guys, Johnno likes to play down there. We won’t be targeting him specifically but, if traffic comes his way, I’m sure he’ll get tested,” Green said.
Penrith are expected to stick with the same 17 who pipped Parramatta on the siren last week, while the Cowboys are also unlikely to make any changes to the squad who whitewashed St George Illawarra.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* Penrith’s past three losses against North Queensland have been by at least 20 points
* Cowboys forward Jason Taumalolo has run more than 100 metres in 13 straight matches
* Penrith’s five games this season have been decided by an average margin of three points – the equal-fifth smallest in premiership history