Wests Tigers rookie Esan Marsters says he wasn't sure whether to smile or cry when told last week he'd be making his NRL debut but now with a solid game under his belt is keen to build his performances and minutes.
The highly-touted young Kiwi can play back row or centre and showed off his silky ball skills in a tight 16-12 loss to the Dragons last Saturday with a lovely pass to create Michael Chee Kam's maiden NRL try – and set up a grandstand finale with the fast-finishing Tigers falling just short of knocking off the third-placed Dragons.
Speaking to NRL.com after the game, Marsters said while he's been playing 80 minutes as a centre in reserve grade he'll take whatever chance coach Ivan Cleary affords him in the top squad.
"As a kid you always want to make your NRL debut. That was one of my goals. I really enjoyed it out there and just want to build on the performance," Marsters said.
After Cleary pulled him aside at training last Wednesday to inform him of his impending debut, Marsters said he rang around whatever family he could to get together so he could tell them at the same time. Some flew over from New Zealand to watch his debut.
"I rang all my family members to tell them to come home, got them in a bunch and let them know and they were all pretty excited for me," he said.
"I had some family fly over from New Zealand to come watch me play; that was pretty important for me.
"It was pretty tough, it was pretty fast out there but the boys stuck with me, they were talking to me on the edge and I sort of found my rhythm.
"Hopefully if I get the chance to play next week I take it with two hands."
An early hamstring injury to veteran back-rower Chris Lawrence meant Marsters was called on to play more minutes than he would have expected, eventually finishing with 13 tackles, 88 running metres and a try assist in 43 minutes on field.
"I want to build my minutes, I want to be able to play 80," Marsters said.
"Chris Lawrence, it's a sad thing for him to go down like that but I want to knuckle down and get better as a player.
"I've been playing centre in [the Intrust Super Premiership], I haven't played back row for a while but I'll play anywhere Ivan wants me to play. There's an opportunity there for me to play back row so I want to take it with both hands and see where it goes.
"I don't mind, either way, Ivan knows what's going on, I just want to perform for him."
And the magic ball to Chee Kam?
"He was calling for it, I should have gone open but I heard him calling so I gave him the ball and he scored a pretty good try," Marsters smiled.