Hayne won’t be the only fo­cus for Kiwi play­maker

Daily Mercury - - SPORT FEATURE - — Jon Tuxworth

COW­BOYS play­maker Te Maire Martin be­lieves New Zealand can bounce back from their shock World Cup de­feat against Tonga, but in­sists beat­ing Fiji in Satur­day’s quar­ter-fi­nal isn’t as sim­ple as up­stag­ing star op­po­site num­ber Jar­ryd Hayne.

Af­ter over­look­ing him for the Tonga loss, the Ki­wis have re­called Martin at five-eighth in place of Kodi Niko­rima for the do-or-die clash in Wellington.

A win would likely set up a five-eighth bat­tle with Cow­boys halves part­ner and Aus­tralia play­maker Michael Mor­gan next week.

But while Martin’s duel with Fiji no. 6 Hayne will be piv­otal, the 22-year-old said shut­ting down the big-name Gold Coast Ti­tan isn’t a one-man job.

Hav­ing moved to Townsville mid-sea­son af­ter be­ing un­wanted by Pen­rith, Martin helped guide the Cow­boys to the grand fi­nal.

He con­tin­ued his re­mark­able resurgence by scor­ing a hat-trick against Scot­land in his sole World Cup out­ing thus far.

“Ev­ery­one knows you can’t just fo­cus on him (Hayne), you’ve got to fo­cus on their for­wards as well,” Martin said. “Com­ing from a halves per­spec­tive, try­ing to go for­ward when your for­wards aren’t isn’t too easy.

“He’s got that x-fac­tor and we’ll have to work on him. If he gets one-on-one he’s like Rog (Ki­wis full­back Roger Tuiv­asa-Sheck) or Shaun (John­son, Ki­wis half­back), he’s go­ing to beat them most of the time.

“The pres­sure side of ev­ery­thing, you try and take as much as you can out of those (big NRL) games and bring it into the group.”

Martin said watch­ing the loss to Tonga from the stands had al­lowed him to take note of im­prove­ments New Zealand can make to avoid a sim­i­lar dis­as­ter against Fiji.

“I’ve seen what could be done a bit bet­ter, we’ve gone through that as a spine this week,” Martin said.

“They’re quite sim­i­lar to Tonga with some big for­wards with foot­work who can off­load, and some fast out­side backs.

“It’s good for the guys who played last week, they know what’s com­ing.”

While he has es­tab­lished him­self as a star for his coun­try, Martin faces a bat­tle to re­tain a reg­u­lar first grade spot with the Cow­boys next year.

Co-cap­tain Johnathan Thurston made an early re­turn to pre-sea­son train­ing yes­ter­day af­ter shoul­der surgery side­lined him for most of 2017. The ma­jor­ity of the squad will be back next week.

The su­per­star half­back and Mor­gan have a mort­gage on the halves spots and if ev­ery­one is fit, Martin looks set to bat­tle Ben Hamp­ton and Josh Chudleigh for the bench util­ity role.

While Thurston has of­fi­cially re­tired from rep­re­sen­ta­tive foot­ball, Martin will be in­valu­able for the Cow­boys when Mor­gan is on State of Ori­gin duty with Queens­land.


RE­CALL: Te Maire Martin is back for the Ki­wis against Fiji.

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