Kiwi reaping rewards from JT and Morgan
A spot on the North Queensland Cowboys' roster right now is to a young rugby league playmaker what a Harvard University scholarship is to a budding academic.
Since transferring to the Cowboys from the Penrith Panthers in June, five-eighth Te Maire Martin has spent the back end of the NRL Telstra Premiership season gleaning advice from one of the greatest halves ever to play the game in Johnathan Thurston, and playing alongside Michael Morgan who finished as one of the competition's form players.
Now Martin is hoping his education from the two Kangaroos stars will have him primed to fire for the Kiwis at the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.
"The size of the role they play in the team and how they direct the team around [are the main things I've picked up from them]," Martin said.
"As soon as I got there Michael Morgan was playing some unreal footy and just how calm he is while doing that role, he's a special talent.
"I've been watching the back end of this year and trying to soak it all in with how he does it. It's not easy what he does, he kicks the ball well, runs the ball well, directs them around well, so if I can just take a little bit out of every one of those things I'll be happy."
The World Cup will be Martin's second time in camp with the Kiwis after being selected by coach David Kidwell for last year's Four Nations campaign, despite having played just six first-grade games prior to his Test debut against Scotland.
Fast forward 12 months and the Keebra Park graduate has appeared in an NRL Grand Final and, in the absence of Kieran Foran, shapes as New Zealand's first-choice option to partner Shaun Johnson the halves.
"[This time around] my last game was a first-grade game, it makes it a bit better; last year I was playing reserve grade and came in and it was a bit of a shock to be selected for the Kiwis," Martin said.
"I have learned a lot this year, especially in those couple of weeks of the finals."
Veteran Kiwi playmaker Thomas Leuluai said Martin's development was clear to see right from this week's first team training session, and that the 22-year-old's confidence would be crucial to New Zealand's hopes.
"I went on the last tour with him, he's a good player, he's had a great year… he has obviously grown since last time I was with him," Leuluai said.
"His confidence must be through the roof and that's sort of what we need going into it.
"He's played in a grand final and performed in the play-offs really well, so I am looking forward to seeing him and Shaun get together."