Confidence will dictate Martin's return
Panthers rookie Te Maire Martin says he won't be rushed back into first grade next week against the Roosters, but that's a minor bump in the road after there were fears that he may never play rugby league again.
Martin was tackled off the ball by Sharks winger Valentine Holmes in Round 8 in what looked like an innocuous hit, but scans told a different story.
Initial reports from the club were not good, with Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould tweeting in April:
"Te Maire Martin - fractured glenoid (shoulder). Displaced. Terrible injury, very painful & will require surgery. Unfortunately out for season".
Glenoid injuries can often have dire consequences for athletes, with the onset of arthritis a common occurrence for victims later in life, while others have had their careers cut short due to lack of mobility in the shoulders.
But because the bone break was so clean and none of the surrounding tissue was affected, Martin was spared the worst case scenario and somehow avoided surgery.
"It was pretty heartbreaking. I was gutted I had to get surgery and was told I'd be out for the rest of the year," he recalled after being given the initial prognosis.
"Luckily I saw my surgeon and he saw that it was healing itself quite well and I didn't have to get surgery and I could be back this year.
"I'm fully thankful for that, and like I said, now I just need to get some strength back into it and play like I was playing before I got injured.
"It feels good. Obviously I've got a little bit of strapping on there at the moment, but it's getting better and better.
"It's not as strong as I want it to be, but I'm working through the rehab every day trying to get it stronger. There's full movement now so all I need to do is to get a bit of strength in there and it should be good."
Sitting on the sidelines wasn't as tough as first feared, with the boom rookie able to get through light duties and hone his kicking skills with the main playing group.
While his fitness levels might have taken a hit, the 87kg five-eighth didn't put on any weight over his three-month stint on the sidelines.
"I actually stayed the same," he confessed. "I might have put on a bit of body fat and leg muscle, but I stayed the same."
"I've got little legs so I had to try to put some weight on those, so every day I was trying to put weight on those little things.
"I could do a lot of kicking while my shoulder was out so I tried to practise that as much as I could. I had Sowie (Jamie Soward) still here and Nathan [Cleary] as well so I was learning off them and they were teaching me a bit."
The 20-year-old tested out his shoulder last Saturday playing for Penrith's Intrust Super Premiership side in their 12-10 loss to the Newtown Jets.
It was a far from spectacular return, but that was beside the point as Martin proved to himself and the club that his body was able to handle the rigours of match-day contact.
"I was a bit scared at the start because I haven't used it for a while," he revealed.
"It's a bit different on the field than what it is at training with pads and all that kind of stuff. I think it's just a confidence thing.
"I just needed to get my shoulder back into it and get my confidence back up. It's sort of what happens after an injury I guess. Everyone always tell me you're shy to use it but I'll test it out this weekend against the Tigers.
"I had sort of no confidence, but it didn't hurt or anything."
Martin is itching to get back into the NRL side so he can partner fellow rookie Nathan Cleary in the halves.
The 18-year-old halfback has been one of the finds of the year since making his debut in Round 13 against the Storm, and the future of the club appears to rest on the star pairings' shoulders.
While they've never played alongside each other, the halves did square off last year in the Holden Cup when Martin was still at the Tigers.
For the record, Martin got the spoils on that occasion, 10-6, in what was Cleary's NYC debut, but don't expect the stars of the future to line up together on Monday night unless Martin is 100 per cent fit.
"A half-confident 'T' is not going to be good for the team," he said.
"I've played against him, and that was hard enough, so I'd rather be in his team than against him," Martin said.
"It was a real buzz for me how he settled in so fast. He just took it with two hands and went with it.
"It sort of made me train a bit harder while I was off to try to get back faster, but obviously you can't rush this kind of thing. I just want to really get back and play with him."