(Main photo: Te Maire Martin showed plenty of promise before injury struck. Credit: photosport.nz).
He hasn’t been seen in the NRL since April, but Penrith rookie Te Maire Martin needs to be in the final 17 for the Kiwis come October and November.
With a lack of established Kiwi hookers and halves currently available – following injuries to Kodi Nikorima and off-field issues for Kieran Foran – Martin presents as the best option to complete the hooking rotation for New Zealand, and he can do so while playing his natural position in the halves.
Veteran No.9 Issac Luke is almost certain to start, but is no longer an 80-minute hooker, and even at club level he only played a full game in nine of his 20 appearances.
Youngsters Danny Levi and Manaia Cherrington were both left out of the train-on squad, leaving utility Lewis Brown as the only other recognised dummy-half option at this stage.
Brown will do a job for you in the position, and has been fantastic over the years for club and country in that role, but you miss the class of having a pure playmaker at the back of the play the ball.
The best option remaining is to carry a half on the bench, with presumed starting five-eighth Thomas Leuluai able to shift into hooker and the interchange half assuming the spot alongside Shaun Johnson.
A strong ball runner who showed in six NRL games this year that he can manage an edge of the field on attack, and that he has the composure to handle big moments.
The entry of Martin to the field in the middle of the second half could cause chaos, with his fresh legs and multiple threats with the ball in hand.
Te Maire Magic
After only six games, Te Maire Martin is a certain star of the future.https://t.co/tcc337wAyJ pic.twitter.com/XHa1dRBUa9
— Intrust Super Prem (@IntrustSuperPrm) August 26, 2016
Leuluai meanwhile is a quality hooker who has already played numerous Tests at dummy-half.
There will be arguments that in this day and age, with the impressive depth the Kiwis possess in the NRL, that New Zealand shouldn’t have to call young kids up from reserve-grade competitions.
That is a fair point, but Martin is a special talent and right now he fits in with what the Kiwis need.
Martin is an outside chance to even make the train-on squad following Penrith’s exit from the NRL finals on Saturday night, but for me he should be there and he should be given the chance to play.
Corey Rosser is the editor of kiwileaguecentral.com and the New Zealand Correspondent for NRL.com.
This article first appeared on http://www.kiwileaguecentral.com