Martin clueless as to how to stop Cleary

They spent the summer forming a scrumbase combination that promised to be the most exciting young pairing in the NRL but not even Te Maire Martin knows how to ruffle the feathers of Panthers half Nathan Cleary.

After a mid-season switch to fill the considerable shoes of Johnathan Thurston at the Cowboys Martin will line up against his former club for the first time on Saturday night in a clash that is crucial to the finals hopes for both sides.


A Penrith win would see them leapfrog the Cowboys on points differential and put a North Queensland team once again hit hard by injuries this week in a precarious position on the edge of the top eight.

Captain Gavin Cooper (calf) and winger Antonio Winterstein (hamstring) are both looking like they will miss at least two games, placing further pressure on a young squad already without Thurston and Matt Scott.

Three days before it was confirmed that Thurston would require season-ending shoulder surgery after Origin II the Cowboys snared Martin who had fallen down the pecking order at Penrith after starting the first seven games of the season at five-eighth.

As Martin has settled into his new surroundings in Townsville Cleary has been the driver of a Panthers revival over the second half of the season and the Cowboys' No.6 doesn't have any inside information on how to stop him.

"I'm not too sure, he's pretty composed," Martin said when asked how to put Cleary off his game.

"He's pretty chilled out so you can't really say anything to try and put him off.

"We'll just have to try and do a good job on him and shut down the amount of time he gets with the ball.

"He's real laid back and chilled. He's sort of like a surfer laid-back kind of thing. He gets on with everyone, he's easy to get along with so it should be good playing against him.

"I've got a lot of close mates in that team so it should be a good game. There's a bit of talk going on amongst us because we knew this game was coming up.

"I was talking to [Matt] Moylan the other week and he was saying that he should be back when we play them so it will be good to play against some old mates."

A rugby union prodigy who only turned to rugby league in his second-last year of high school, Martin moved to the Cowboys in order to study under Thurston but has had to fast-track his education with his mentor on the sidelines.

The biggest adjustment has been in learning the systems that North Queensland coach Paul Green employs but with the team down on troops and finals looming large the 21-year-old has promised to dig into his bag of tricks in the final four weeks of the regular season.

"He (Green) says that if I see something it's up to me to play it," said Martin, who scored twice in his Cowboys debut back in Round 17.

"I'm still trying to get used to the structure and how everything works. I'm not trying to do too much but slowly ease my way in there but can't leave it too long because finals are just around the corner.

"Every game is important but this one will be up there. We're still confident and the players that are coming in know they can do the job."

The loss of Thurston on top of Scott's season-ending knee injury hit the Cowboys playing group hard but the injection of Martin's energy breathed new life into the team according to winger Kyle Feldt.

"It is a bit of a dampener losing your captain but Te Maire's come in and he's really done a job for us when he's been on the field," said Feldt.

"It's something that he needed to do when he came here and it's good to see that he can fill in the shoes of Johno and keep the team going forward.

"The more game-time he gets the more confident he gets. It's just good to see him playing some good footy."