Martin to grow un­der JT

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JON TUXWORTH jonathon. tuxworth@ news. com. au

PENRITH great Greg Alexan­der be­lieves Johnathan Thurston’s men­tor­ing of Te Maire Martin can help him em­u­late Brodie Croft’s stun­ning rise un­der Cooper Cronk at Mel­bourne Storm.

Martin, 21, will make his Cow­boys de­but against Can­berra tonight in place of Thurston af­ter he was ruled out with a sea­son- end­ing shoul­der in­jury.

The five- eighth’s move from the Panthers could not have been more timely and he has the op­por­tu­nity to ce­ment the No. 6 jersey for the rest of the sea­son.

Alexan­der was adamant Martin’s fall from grace at Penrith had noth­ing to do with Martin’s foot­ball abil­ity, with Matt Moy­lan’s shift from full­back to five- eighth prov­ing an in­stant suc­cess.

Martin will part­ner Queens­land Ori­gin hero Moy­lan in the halves against the Raiders, the sixth halves part­ner­ship the Cow­boys have fielded this year.

But Alexan­der has no doubt Martin can forge a long first grade ca­reer and hav­ing a four- time Dally M medal­list in his cor­ner is a huge head start.

Martin had ar­rived in Townsville ex­pect­ing to bide his time and soak up Thurston’s wis­dom un­til his planned re­tire­ment at the end of next year, but JT’s in­jury has ac­cel­er­ated the time­line.

Thurston had suc­cess­ful surgery on his right shoul­der on Thurs­day and faces a sixth- month re­cov­ery.

For­mer Ju­nior Kan­ga­roos skip­per Croft has played just three NRL matches, but the young half­back has al­ready proven he has in­her­ited men­tor Cronk’s com­po­sure un­der pres­sure by slot­ting the win­ning field goal in golden point against the Cow­boys a fort­night ago.

“That ( Thurston’s guid­ance) will be great for Te Maire, we’ve seen what Brodie Croft has been able to do un­der Cooper Cronk,” Alexan­der said.

“While Te Maire may not have had the length of time Croft has had un­der Cronk, it will be ter­rific for him to have JT in his cor­ner.

“It’s cer­tainly no slight on his abil­ity that Penrith let him go. The thought of ( de­vel­op­ing) two young halves ( with Nathan Cleary) was prob­a­bly go­ing to take longer than they re­ally had.

“He’s very com­posed and very skil­ful, he likes to play at the line and I think he’ll have a long first grade ca­reer.

“He could be one of the re­ally good halves in the com­pe­ti­tion if it all fits into place for him.”

Martin’s part­ner­ship with half­back Michael Mor­gan is the sixth halves com­bi­na­tion the Cow­boys have fielded al­ready this year.

It is in stark con­trast to the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons where, bar rep­re­sen­ta­tive foot­ball and the odd mi­nor in­jury, Mor­gan and Thurston have been main­stays.

Alexan­der be­lieves Martin’s skill set can blend well with Mor­gan, who has found his feet as the main or­gan­iser af­ter early teething prob­lems when Thurston was side­lined with a calf in­jury.

“Judg­ing by the last few times he’s played half­back, I think they’ll be a good com­bi­na­tion,” Alexan­der said.

“I thought Mor­gan was very good last week against Penrith, he had plenty of touches and asked ques­tions of the de­fence.

“The Cow­boys can’t win the com­pe­ti­tion with­out Johnathan Thurston, but it doesn’t mean they can’t still have a suc­cess­ful year with­out him, get into the fi­nals and chal­lenge some teams.”

Cow­boys as­sis­tant coach Todd Payten coached Martin at Wests Tigers and tried valiantly to sign him in 2015, be­fore he opted to go to the Panthers.

“I pushed very hard to get him,” Payten said.

“The first time around we went out for din­ner when he came up and showed him around the club but he chose to go to Penrith.

“But I’m very grate­ful he’s here now and it’s proven to be an as­tute sign­ing.

“The kid is su­per tal­ented. I had a bit to do with him at the Tigers as he was com­ing through and I was re­ally ex­cited about his prospects then.

“The last six to nine months haven’t been great for him, but since he’s been here I’ve seen his con­fi­dent shoot back.

“We’ve got seven weeks un­til we’re com­ing into fi­nals, it’s am­ple time to get some com­bi­na­tions and I think he’ll be fine.”

For­mer Ma­roons five- eighth Ben Ikin says the only per­son who can de­cide whether Martin is Johnathan Thurston’s long- term suc­ces­sor is the man him­self.

“Hav­ing JT around ( will help) and the sys­tem is im­por­tant, which in­cludes the play­ers you play along­side, but ul­ti­mately it’s up to you,” Ikin said.

PASSER BY: Cow­boys re­cruit Te Maire Martin train­ing this week. Pic­ture: SCOTT RADFORD- CHISHOLM

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.