BACK ON FA­MIL­IAR GROUND Martin keen to face his old club

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - TRENT SLATTER trent. slatter@ news. com. au JON TUXWORTH

COWBOYS five- eighth Te Maire Martin is con­fi­dent a mi­nor knee in­jury won’t hold him back when he re­turns to face his for­mer club in Pen­rith for the first time.

The 21- year- old did not train with North Queens­land yes­ter­day af­ter suf­fer­ing a knock to his knee against the Storm, but he is ex­pected to be fine to tackle his for­mer team­mates on Satur­day night.

Martin played the first seven games of the sea­son for the Pan­thers, but fell out of favour and was axed to re­serve grade be­fore mak­ing the mid­sea­son switch to the Cowboys.

The tal­ented half was pre­pared to cop a few jibes ahead of his re­turn to Pep­per Sta­dium but he ex­pected both teams to keep their fo­cus on the field for the po­ten­tially sea­son- defin­ing clash.

“Every­one’s been pretty quiet so I think they’re all pretty fo­cused, but we’ll see what hap­pens. I might have a bit more com­ing now,” Martin said.

“Any game this close to the end of the sea­son is pretty im­por­tant to get the roll on into fi­nals. If we get a win here then it will set us up well for the last three games that we have left.

“If they get a win … then it puts them on the same points as us. It’s def­i­nitely im­por­tant for both teams.”

A win on Satur­day night would see the Pan­thers leapfrog the Cowboys into sixth place on for- and- against, while North Queens­land could fin­ish the round any­where from fourth to eighth on the lad­der depend­ing on other re­sults.

The Cowboys are com­ing off con­sec­u­tive losses to the Roost­ers and Storm, but Martin was con­fi­dent they still had a strong plat­form from which to mount their fi­nals charge.

“I’m re­ally en­joy­ing my foot­ball and get­ting com­bi­na­tions down pat, but the last two games have been pretty poor from us,” Martin said.

“I think both games we’ve been in it, but we’ve just let them back in, es­pe­cially against that Roost­ers team. Our sec­ond half wasn’t good enough. There’s def­i­nitely some pos­i­tives to take out of it and a lot to im­prove on.”

Martin won’t be the only for­mer Pan­ther re­turn­ing to his old stamp­ing ground.

Cowboys full­back Lach­lan Coote played 83 NRL games for the Pan­thers be­fore shift­ing to Townsville in 2014 and the Pen­rith ju­nior said he al­ways en­joyed play­ing in front of his friends and fam­ily.

“It’s al­ways good go­ing back to Pen­rith where it all be­gan,” Coote said. “I love go­ing back there more so for fam­ily and they al­ways come out.”

Coote’s ex­pe­ri­ence at the back has been cru­cial for the Cowboys, with Martin still find­ing his feet at his new club and cham­pion play­maker Johnathan Thurston out for the sea­son with a shoul­der in­jury.

Michael Mor­gan has stepped up as an or­gan­iser and will even take the cap­taincy for the first time against Pen­rith, and Coote said he was just do­ing what­ever he could to help the team’s at­tack.

“I’m just try­ing to help out ‘ Morgo’ as much as I can,” Coote said.

“He’s got a lot on his plate in tak­ing Thurston’s role there and get­ting peo­ple or­gan­ised. I’m help­ing as much as I can in get­ting plays on for him and get­ting the boys in po­si­tion.” ETHAN Lowe jokes he shouldn’t prac­tise goal­kick­ing at all. Af­ter all, he barely booted a ball in anger be­fore nail­ing the big­gest in­di­vid­ual mo­ment of his ca­reer against Pen­rith in round 16.

And while he was given the job vir­tu­ally by de­fault, statis­tics show the back­rower is ca­pa­ble of han­dling the pres­sure again in Septem­ber.

North Queens­land re- ceived news be­fore that game against Pen­rith that Johnathan Thurston was out for the sea­son.

Winger Kyle Feldt was anointed his goal­kick­ing re­place­ment, but passed the ba­ton to Lowe af­ter cop­ping a knock to his knee.

Af­ter Feldt scored an acro­batic try off a Michael Mor­gan kick in the dy­ing stages, Lowe nailed the side­line con­ver­sion squint­ing into the af­ter­noon sun to se- cure his side a 14- 12 win. He has since kicked 19 of 23 goals at a suc­cess rate of al­most 83 per cent, up there with the best sharp­shoot­ers in the league.

“To be hon­est I didn’t even prac­tise that whole week ei­ther,” Lowe said.

“I had about four kicks in the warm- up and that’s all the prac­tice I had.

“I don’t know how con­fi­dent I was go­ing into it, but now I’ve taken on that re-

UP FOR IT: Lach­lan Coote and Te Maire Martin will re­turn to Pen­rith in Cowboys colours on Satur­day night. Pic­ture: WES­LEY MONTS

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