Star Wests Tigers Holden Cup playmaker Te Maire Martin has put his impending move to the Penrith Panthers on the backburner as he looks to lead his team to an upset victory over the Sea Eagles in the NYC semi finals this weekend.
Named at five-eighth in the competition's Team of the Year for the second season running, Martin said he feels he made the right decision to leave the Tigers with first-choice halves Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses holding mortgages on their positions, but that his departure to Penrith next year wasn't his immediate focus.
"I'm not too worried about [Penrith] just yet. It'll be good to finish the year off with the boys which is my focus at the moment so I'll think about that when it pre-season comes back around," Martin told NRL.com.
"It was a pretty tough decision to come up with in the end too though; my manager personally helped me out a bit and weighed up the pros and cons of the different clubs.
"We looked at the potential of different clubs' sixes and sevens so hopefully I made the right choice but we'll see what happens."
Martin was also buoyed by his selection in the Team of the Year in a season in which he also represented the Junior Kiwis, and was thankful for his Tigers teammates who were able to keep him grounded when the honours roll through.
"It's humbling and unreal, so hopefully these couple of bonuses can give me the confidence to take the next step up and make my NRL debut sooner rather than later because it's my dream," Martin said.
"It's hard to burst my own bubble at times though, the boys here are really humble as well and they sort of keep grounded.
"It's good to have such a good group of mates around because we don't always focus on footy as such so it's great to be able to hang out and do anything other than think about games."
Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace will have their work cut out for them keeping their starting spots at the foot of the mountains next season, with Martin having produced 74 try assists over the past two seasons in Holden Cup. But the 19-year-old has another challenge on his plate for now as he comes up against Manly and their star fullback Tom Trbojevic this weekend.
Trbojevic, who scored eight tries in his nine NRL games this year, is a threat Martin and his team won't be taking lightly, with the Sea Eagles No.1 having produced a stunning four tries and 460 metres in one game against NYC powerhouses the Warriors this season.
"We have to mark up on him and stop him really. I watched the Sea Eagles play Penrith [last weekend] and their game plan revolved around him which you can't blame them for," Martin said.
"He knows how to do some freaky stuff and knows how to find the try-line so he'll be someone we certainly have to look out for."
Martin went on to credit his halves partner Jeremy Marshall-King – brother of Benji – for taking the pressure off him this season.
"Jeremy is starting to take on the line more than what he's done before and he's over-calling me so it's good to have two dominant halves within the team that know how to attack," Martin said.
"It takes the pressure off me and now the opposition has to focus on two halves and not just me. It helps me out a lot but then again the outside backs that run the right lines make my job a lot easier."