NRL game between NQ Cowboys and St George Illawarra Dragons at 1300Smiles Stadium. Cowboys Te Maire Martin. Picture: Evan Morgan
NRL game between NQ Cowboys and St George Illawarra Dragons at 1300Smiles Stadium. Cowboys Te Maire Martin. Picture: Evan Morgan

Martin puts hand up for fullback as Cowboys brace for Ponga

COWBOYS playmaker Te Maire Martin is adamant he can find a new home in the no.1 jersey as North Queensland braces for the return of Kalyn Ponga on Friday night.

The clash against Newcastle at 1300SMILES Stadium will be the first time Ponga will face his former team after justifying his big money Knights deal with a string of electric displays at fullback this year.

The Cowboys fought hard to keep the 20-year-old, who enhanced his huge reputation with a superb debut for Queensland playing out of position in the back row in Origin II.

Ponga will return from a three-week lay-off with a hamstring injury against the Cowboys, where he will attempt to remind his old teammates of what they're missing.

The Cowboys have lost five straight games and their last five in Townsville, and are fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.

Finding a permanent solution at fullback is one of the major issues facing Cowboys coach Paul Green.

Long-term custodian Lachlan Coote has been in and out of first grade and was dropped for last week's loss to the Dragons, paving the way for regular half Martin to play his first game at fullback at any level.

The Cowboys have long been linked to Sharks flyer Valentine Holmes, but the Townsville product is contracted with Cronulla next year and would need to obtain a release to head home in 2019.

North Queensland also experimented with Michael Morgan at fullback before a pectoral injury against the Warriors in round 15 ended his season.

Martin, who was switched to allow rookie half Jake Clifford to make his debut, threatened in attack against the Dragons and was awarded player of the match by Green.

"I got caught a few times out of position but I got the feel for it as the game went on, and I enjoyed it," Martin said.

"He (Green) asked if I was interested in moving to the back, and I was definitely keen. It's something new and it's a position I'd like to get good at.

"I've got a lot to learn and Cootey and Morgs have been really good in helping me out, and Greeny as well."

Te Maire Martin and Jason Taumalolo at Cowboys training, 1300 Smiles Stadium. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Te Maire Martin and Jason Taumalolo at Cowboys training, 1300 Smiles Stadium. Picture: Alix Sweeney

 

The 22-year-old was annoyed at himself, perhaps harshly, for one-on-one misses on Matt Dufty and Tariq Sims in the first half which led to tries.

"At fullback there's a lot of running and those important tackles need to be made.

"The one with Tariq was more disappointing because it was last play, and I had him right there.

"I didn't put enough heart I guess in the tackle and I was a bit disappointed in that, letting the boys down on two tackles that could have definitely changed the game."

Martin said it will take time before he adjusts to the extra running required to play fullback.

But he has vowed to help take the pressure off Johnathan Thurston and Clifford.

"It's about getting that game fitness at fullback and learning that position a bit more," Martin said.

"I knew where to be, my legs just couldn't get there. It's something I have to learn, and learn pretty quick.

"Johnno is trying to do a lot and myself and Cliffo have to step up and help him."



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