Liam Martin is the type of player every coach wants on their side.
The 23-year-old Temora product has just 35 NRL games under its belt and is already around the corner for a debut in the country of origin.
Martin is as tough and rough as they come in the field. An absolute beast that runs hard and leaves everything in the paddock.
Just ask Panther’s assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo, who revealed that his star backbone impressed even the toughest of people.
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“We put him in the under 20s in an army camp and the army people said, ‘That guy … there’s something about him. He could join the SAS, ”said Ciraldo Big sports breakfast on Tuesday.
“He’s worked so hard, he just doesn’t stop and I think that shows in his footy this year.
“He has a lot of confidence in what he is doing. It was extraordinary to do what he did this year, playing 80 minutes week after week. “
You won’t see this striker storm forward listening to rap music to pump himself into the shed before a game.
Instead, he meditates in a quiet corner – something he learned from his teammate Api Koroisau and which he has implemented in his routine over the past few months.
“I actually took into account what Api is doing, which is a bit of meditation before the game. I saw him doing it for a week and thought I would try, ”said Martin Foxsports.com.au.
“I don’t hear anything, I’m just trying to find a quiet place in the shed and just breathe. It worked for me, I’ve been doing it for the past few months, and it seems to be working so I’ll probably keep it. “
It works absolutely for Martin, who is one of the strong runners-up in the competition. It’s also a far cry from what a younger Martin would do to prepare for a game, but he says it has to do with what the Panthers coaches are driving forward this year so he’ll keep doing it.
“I’m young, I would play around in the shed until the game, but the coaching team was very careful so I took them on board and included them in my game. It made a difference. “
Someone who will appreciate this mindfulness is NSW trainer Brad Fittler.
Freddy took a different approach when he became the blues coach in 2018. He introduced yoga, barefoot meditation, and mindfulness into the team’s preparation and the results speak for themselves.
But even without the meditation element, Martin Fittler’s gaze caught the eye. NSW assistant coach Greg Alexander said the boom backrower “is sure to get into an argument”.
“If the 27-man roster is through as we progress through the finals, I’m sure Liam will be a part of it,” said Alexander Fox League Two weeks ago.
While Martin is only focused on the upcoming job with the Panthers as they prepare for their big final qualifier with the Rabbitohs on Saturday, he admitted that an NSW debut has crossed his mind.
“It’s hard not to think about (Origin), it definitely popped up in my head,” he said.
“I think that was the culmination of any boy growing up in New South Wales who played footy to put on the sky blue.
“It would be an incredible opportunity, but I don’t buy too much. When it happens, it happens. But if you don’t, I won’t be disappointed. “
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Fittler has expanded his 27-man squad every Sunday, depending on who was eliminated from the final and is injury-free.
Select players are slated to go into the Origin bubble on October 19th, and those playing in the grand finals will join them afterward.
If Martin isn’t selected, it won’t be an entirely bad thing. He will be given the chance to return home to see his mother Maxine on her 1,500 acre farm in Barmedman, just outside Temora, which was badly hit during the drought.
“It was mainly (affected by the drought). Last year they couldn’t even harvest because it was so dry, ”said Martin.
“The last few years have been pretty tough.
“I think this year is looking better than it has been in a while, so we’re pretty lucky. Mom keeps sending photos through. “
But right now, mom makes the four-hour trip to Sydney and back every weekend to see her youngest make his dream come true.
“She will definitely be here (this weekend), she wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Martin.
“She’s staying for the weekend, I have a sister who lives in town so she usually goes in and visits her and then drives back on a Sunday.
“It would be huge (to win a Premier League for your family). Mom was such a big part of it. I think she would probably cry more than me if it happened. “
Martin’s family is a huge motivator for him. Six years ago he lost his older brother Jarred to suicide.
Jarred was also a tough, hard-working footy player – something Martin previously said that he’s trying to honor in his own game. Jarred firmly believed that hard work beats talent, and you will often see those same words on Martin’s wrist strap.
There is no doubt that Jarred will watch over his little brother in the biggest match of his career on Saturday.
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Martin’s mother is 450 kilometers away, but other parts of the family aren’t actually too far. Panther’s assistant coach Trent Barrett – also a Temora product – is his first cousin.
“I didn’t know what it would be like when he came to the coach, but it was great. (Our relationship) hasn’t changed too much, ”Martin said of Barrett.
So he has Ciraldo and Barrett very much in his corner, but what about head coach Ivan Cleary?
Martin credits Cleary for helping him believe in himself.
“Last year I was a little unsure if I was up to the standard,” he said.
“Ivan always said, believe in yourself, he drove so massively this year and I think every game is somehow better.”
Now he wants to give something back to Cleary who he believes is a father figure trainer.
“It’s great to see how we played for him.
“When he came in last year there was a lot of talk about him to finally be able to show what he can bring out as a team. It’s pretty good.
“He’s the type of trainer who won’t blow you up, but he’ll let you down than what you would do if he blew you up. He definitely drives us hard. “
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After long journeys back and forth from Temora, Martin finally moved into the Panthers house a few years ago with Dylan Edwards, Kaide Ellis, Jack Hetherington and Billy Burns. He says it was “not a boring household”.
He also got through the ranks, playing alongside halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai. He is thrilled with how far they have come.
“I’ve played ball with them all the way in SG and seeing them play now is pretty amazing.
“Jarome finally got his chance and he took it with both hands. The footy he plays is exciting.
“He plays on my edge with Nathan, he makes my work easy and he makes me look good.”
Winning the Provan-Summons Trophy together is something dreams are made of for this next generation of Penrith superstars.
“We hear stories from 2003 when they blocked the streets and things. We always said, imagine how crazy it would be if it ever happened to (us),” said Martin.
“To be that close, it’s pretty exciting.”
But before they can even think of playing on the big stage on the big final day, the Panthers have to hit a sensational bunnies package.
Martin has of course prepared for the duel between Eels and Rabbitohs last weekend: “I was sure that we would play Parra in this first half, but Rabbitohs was determined and came back in the second half. You played well. “
And he revealed that after the game, when they knew who they were going to face in the pre-finals, the team’s group chat was oddly quiet.
“A couple of guys said some things on WhatsApp, but that’s it, there wasn’t much chat.”
A bit strange for a team whose camaraderie has grown incredibly this year. But even the talkative team-mate Josh Mansour has confirmed that.
“There wasn’t a single message, believe it or not,” said Mansour.
“Everyone has undoubtedly only seen the game. I thought everyone just needs to focus, we don’t want to tune in too early, but now it’s time to start building. “