If Te Maire Martin gives the impression he’s one of the happiest players doing the preseason slog right now it’s easy to understand why.
After all he has just come through a comeback season which seemed impossible when he quit the NRL after being diagnosed with a bleed on the brain early in the 2019 season.
He not only made a successful return to the NRL with the Brisbane Broncos – going on to make 13 appearances – but he was also called into the Kiwis’ squad for the midseason Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga.
Even better news was still to come when he received a phone call from recently appointed One New Zealand Warriors head coach Andrew Webster.
“I didn’t think I was going to come back and play for the Warriors to be honest. As much as I’ve wanted to it just worked out that I ended up somewhere else, somewhere different,” said Martin.
“So when Webby gave me a call I was really keen. It’s always good to be home. Like when I was playing for my hometown (in 2020 and 2021), it means a lot more when you’re playing for someone from where you’re from.
“I’m just excited to get into the season and rip in, looking forward to getting back in the front line and playing around the ball a bit more but wherever Webby wants me to go I’m happy to go there.
“I’m excited to be here at the Warriors and I’m keen to put the jersey on.”
It doesn’t end there for Martin.
Not only does his three-year deal set him up with the One New Zealand Warriors, it also gives him the connection he craves to be back in his home territory.
Martin hails from the remote settlement of Taharoa on the southern side of Kawhia Harbour, a village with a population of just 171 people according to the last census.
And when time permits outside training, that’s where he’s likely to be, making the 212km trip south whenever he can to be with his family and pursue his love of pig hunting, fishing and surfing.
Fluent in te reo, Martin revels in being back where the heart is, a place that seemed a world away when he started his NRL career with Penrith before switching to North Queensland and then the Broncos.
His links with Webster stretch back to his NYC under-20 days when he played for him at the Wests Tigers in 2014 before Webster began a two-year stint as an assistant coach with the Warriors in 2015.
Martin's last memory of playing on Mount Smart Stadium didn't prove to be so happy despite helping the Cowboys to a 17-10 win in April 2019. For it was after that game that he started having the severe headaches which would see him playing his last NRL match a week later against the Bulldogs.
Next time he steps onto the venue - hopefully in round four against the Bulldogs - it will be as a One New Zealand Warrior, back in his home country and with his hometown Taharoa there in both body and spirit.