Martin ready to return to NRL after injury

After his surgically-repaired shoulder passed the ultimate test against Canterbury’s battery of monster forwards, Te Maire Martin declared he is ready to pick up where he left off this NRL season.

The Panthers playmaker was solid in Saturday’s 20-10 trial win over the Bulldogs at Belmore Sports Ground, his first sighting in first grade for 10 months.

The 21-year-old set up his side’s second try for Corey Harawira-Naera and was instrumental as they jumped out to a 10-6 halftime lead.

In the off-season Martin added three kilograms to his wirey frame to now tip the scales at 90kgs.

He said he found his debut season, in which he played six games, a rigorous experience but felt his body was now up to the week-in, week-out grind of first grade.

“It was a bit of a shock getting up into first grade,” Martin said.

“The NRL boys are all big bodies and I’m getting used to it now.

“The shoulder is all good now, it’s back to normal. I’ve just got to try to put some muscle on it now.

“It’s still in the back of my mind but I tackled alright with it today, I put my head on the wrong side a few times to use it, but it feels alright.

“I cant’ blame anything anymore. Last year I blamed my shoulder for missing tackles but it’s back to normal.”

Martin’s shoulder received a thorough workout against a Bulldogs pack including James Graham, David Klemmer and Sam Kasiano.

After going under the knife in April, Martin was supposed to miss the rest of last season, only to make a surprise comeback at the back end of the campaign in NSW Cup.

One of the big question marks over the Panthers’ squad is whether Martin will be used at five-eighth and Bryce Cartwright pushed into the back row.

Cartwright guided the Panthers to the finals alongside boom halfback Nathan Cleary last year however Martin is seen as the club’s long-term playmaker.

After Saturday’s hit-out, Martin insisted he wasn’t assured of a first-grade spot.

“We lacked a bit of direction tonight,” Martin said.

“Obviously Cleary does a lot of that stuff and I was a bit crusty.”

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