Martin given the Green light
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys coach Paul Green has urged five-eighth Te Maire Martin to be the x-factor the team needs against the Roosters to help ease the pressure on halfback Michael Morgan and earn a second grand final appearance in three years.
Morgan rightfully received much of the plaudits after masterfully engineering North Queensland's semi-final win over the Eels last weekend but as the stakes rise with every week that passes the Cowboys can't be reliant on one man for their attack.
With the match against Parramatta delicately poised early in the second half it was Martin who took ownership of the situation to send Coen Hess crashing over the try-line with a superbly timed inside pass that caught the Parramatta defenders napping.
Incredibly it was Martin's first try assist in 10 games for North Queensland after his mid-season switch from the Panthers and allowed the Cowboys to open up an eight-point advantage and assume control of the contest.
Admitting he didn't feel comfortable over-calling his senior half when he first came into the team, Martin says he has to play his role on Saturday night and at the very least keep the Roosters honest.
"You can't really do it straight away but I'm a bit more confident on it now in what I need to do," Martin told NRL.com of his evolving role in the Cowboys' attack.
"Early on I was more just trying to learn the game plan of everything and getting used to combinations and all that type of stuff.
"We've all got our roles and if the numbers work out right for me to go then 'Greeny' has given me the green light to take it on and play footy and that's what I try and do.
"If I can do more to take the heat off 'Morgo' because they know when he gets the ball he's quite dangerous and will put an extra number on him or something. If I can do my job to try and keep numbers even it's going to help him out a lot."
Tipped up at half-time by Johnathan Thurston that there might be some opportunities on the short side, Martin took the momentum of a Gavin Cooper surge into the Parramatta defence to call for the ball on the last play and rather than kick, slip a pass to Hess who scored virtually untouched.
The way Martin went to the line and committed the defence had Thurston's fingerprints all over it and winger Antonio Winterstein says the influence of both Thurston and Matt Scott in the sheds has been invaluable.
"They get around and talk to the boys individually because they're sitting in the [coaches] box so they can see things that some of our playmakers and players can't really see," Winterstein said.
"To get that advice from your teammates, you really know that it's coming from someone special.
"When you get that opportunity you go out there and take it because if Johnno is telling you to do something there's obviously some benefit to doing it.
"Te Maire Martin's a big example of that on the weekend. It was last tackle and he really played what was in front of him and 'Hessy' got involved and scored in the end.
"I think Johnno had a quick word to him at half-time there to keep his eyes open and it paid off."
Eager to deflect any praise for the play coming his way – "If you see someone like 'Hessy' or Jase [Taumalolo] that close to the line you just try and give them the ball and let them do the rest" – Martin says he is feeling more and more at home in the North Queensland set-up.
Two years ago as his 20s career wrapped up Martin inspected the Townsville facilities before ultimately signing with the Panthers and believes the great strength of the club is the influence of the senior players on the organisation.
"I just know that the boys are really, really close and there's a lot of experienced boys around," said Martin, who played his first game for the Cowboys in Round 17 against the Raiders.
"It's not just all on the coach to do stuff. The leadership group have a lot to say in what goes on so how the players and the coaches have a lot to say makes it a very strong club."
First published on NRL.com.