Penrith Panthers rookie Te Maire Martin knocked back offer to be Johnathan Thurston’s heir apparent

North Queensland had earmarked Te Maire Martin as the heir to the throne, but a desire to fast-track his career saw him turn down an offer to be Johnathan Thurston’s successor.
Nanjing Night Net

Ahead of Saturday night’s clash between Penrith and the premiers, Fairfax Media can reveal the Cowboys had identified Martin as the hottest young playmaker on the market, flying the then-Wests Tigers teenager to Townsville last year to put forward a proposal.

Their proposal was a succession plan to give Martin an opportunity to bide his time under the tutelage of the two-time premiership-winning playmaker, an offer that almost culminated in the Junior Kiwi putting pen to paper.

But with Michael Morgan and Thurston cemented in the halves, and Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks ahead of him at the Wests Tigers, Martin ventured to the foot of the mountains in search of a NRL gig.

“We had some interest there because we felt he was a guy who, in our system, could learn off JT and potentially help us in the halves when he decided to retire,” Cowboys football manager Peter Parr said.

“He saw that as a really attractive incentive. But at the end of the day I think he decided it was best he went to a club where he could get into the NRL sooner. He knew if both our halves were fit and well, he wouldn’t get the opportunity until JT decided to retire and there is no set date or year for that.

“He just felt he was better off to go somewhere to play NRL earlier. He’s an impressive young man with a lot of ability. He knew where he would sit, he felt he wanted to go somewhere else to play earlier and we understood that and it appears it has worked out well for him.”

The chance to work alongside Thurston was proving far too enticing for Martin to knock back, and was torn when Panthers general manager Phil Gould came to him with a counter-offer.

However, given the uncertainty around Panthers halves Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace last year, Martin turned his back on the Cowboys in the hope of a rapid rise to the top at Penrith.

“When I was about to make my choice, I was really keen on going to the Cowboys because of Thurston,” Martin had told Fairfax Media.

“I wanted to go up there and be his tail. Be with him all the time to better my game. I was almost about to go there until I spoke with Gus. He laid it out for me on how he thinks it will work in the future. That won me over in the end.”

The 20-year-old has been likened to a young Benji Marshall. Martin is close friend’s with Marshall’s brother, Jeremy, and also went to the same high school (Keebra Park), where he constantly was reminded of how similar his skills were to that of the former Tigers pin-up boy.

“I’m not too sure how to take the comparisons. My head sort of puffs up a bit but I normally like to keep my feet on the ground as much as I can,” Martin said.

“He was a bit of a coach’s pet at school. Every training he used to bring him up and say ‘this is what Benji used to do’ or ‘Benji used to do this’. It seemed like he was a leader even back in school. He used to grab all the boys at the team and guide them around the paddock. He seemed like a real dominant player.

“From the first trial I played my coach came up to me and said ‘I see bits of Benji in you’. I don’t know if it’s because we have the same skin colour or what, but that’s what he told me from the first trial – that I had glimpses of Benji in my game. He said he would work on getting me to the Tigers and he got me there.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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