Thurston ready for big final season
He may not see as much game time as last year but North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green insists Te Maire Martin has a golden opportunity to learn from Johnathan Thurston in his final season.
The Cowboys have signed Martin until the end of 2019 so what he gleans from Thurston will be invaluable when he likely slots into a regular starting role in the halves next year.
Martin was a revelation in his 12 Telstra Premiership games at five-eighth for the Cowboys last year but if all things go to plan for the Cowboys the halves pairing in 2018 will be Michael Morgan and Thurston, with Martin having to be patient.
The Cowboys' bench, in its strongest top 17, could include a four-forward rotation of Scott Bolton, John Asiata, Coen Hess and Shaun Fensom.
Green has shown a preference to having a utility on the bench who can play dummy half. It was Rory Kostjasyn for several years before he left the club, then Ben Hampton last season.
Martin has played all his 25 NRL games as a starting five-eighth and has come off the bench in one of his three Tests for the Kiwis.
The 22-year-old's lack of experience at hooker could count against him, but Green said the year would still be a valuable learning experience wherever he plays.
"Whatever happens and whatever position Te Maire ends up playing in once the season kicks off, with JT only having another year to go this season is going to be a golden opportunity for a young half to learn as much as he can off the best," Green told NRL.com.
"I was lucky enough to play with some good players but I don't think I was ever in Te Maire's position where I was young, still developing and had the best in the game to learn off without the pressure of expectation.
"That is the beauty of it for Te Maire this year so he's got to make the most of that while he can, but his development is heading in the right direction.
"He did a great job for us in the halves last season and then got a bit of experience through the World Cup with Test footy."
When the Kiwi international was asked this week whether he would be up for playing on the bench he said he'd "take it on" if the coach wanted while adding he was happy to "bide my time and learn as much as I can off JT".
Green said he was yet to settle on where Martin would fit into his first-choice squad.
"We won't have Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo and Jordan McLean back for full training until Monday so until those blokes get back and we see where everyone is at the whole make-up of the 17 is still up in the air," he said.
"Every season is different and I am not speculating about who is playing where yet when we don't have our full squad back training... and after what we went through from an injury point of view last year."