He’s the Benji Marshall clone that has set the foot of the mountains alight with a dream NRL debut, but Penrith wonderkid Te Maire Martin has now been challenged to back it up.
The 20-year-old Martin will likely go head-to-head with his fellow Keebra Park State High School alumni Marshall against St George Illawarra at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on Sunday.
Marshall will be given until kickoff to prove he has overcome a hamstring problem that kept him out of last week’s win over South Sydney.
While Martin became an instant hero with the game-winning field goal against Brisbane, Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said it was up to the baby-faced rookie to prove it was no fluke.
“Last week doesn’t get him anything anymore,” Griffin said.
“He’s had enough pats on the back for last week. It’s about how he prepares himself for tomorrow. What his next 80 minutes look like is what’s the important thing for him.”
Griffin has heard Martin’s comparisons to Marshall, but said he failed to see them.
“He’s 300 games away from Benji. He’s had one game,” he said.
“He’s there because he’s got some talent otherwise you don’t pick them. He just needs to be Te Maire Martin, playing five-eighth for the Panthers tomorrow. He’s up against two very good halves and I’m sure he’s going to do well.
“We need to just let him play, let him prepare and that’s his job tomorrow.”
Dragons coach Paul McGregor admitted he would test the former Wests Tigers junior in defence, but was wary of altering their entire game plan around the rookie.
“He’s certainly a player that’s new to the grade, so they usually get targeted a little bit,” he said.
“(But) for me it’s not about one person, you go look at that and you’ve got other players out there that can really do some damage. You target one player and you go away from what you’re good at.”
Penrith captain Matt Moylan has been ruled out for a fourth straight week with a back injury, although Griffin said he again was confident he would have his fullback next week.
Forward Trent Merrin is also a certain starter after missing last week’s upset of Brisbane with illness, while Waqa Blake returns from a quad issue to take his place in the centres.
Prop Jeremy Latimore is out for a week due to suspension.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Panthers have won just twice in 11 matches in Wollongong since 1992.
* Penrith have lost their past six away matches, and two of their 13 designated away games.
* Josh Dugan has scored just one try in 12 games against Penrith – his worst strike rate against any team in the NRL.