There was a time not long ago that playing a rugby league game in New Zealand represented Te Maire Martin’s days as a NRL player being over, and served as a reminder of the brain bleed that forced him to step away from his professional career at the age of 24.
Three years on he reflects on the health issues which were “s**t at the time”, but also put him in position to experience what he describes as the most enjoyable two years of his life.
During that period he met his partner, and now mother to his first child, Brigitte and returned to live in his hometown of Taharoa, where he surfed, fished and “basically lived in the bush” with the pig hunting dogs he trained up.
While there he got back to playing local footy with his mates, representing Waikato in the New Zealand national competition, before eventually embarking on a return to the NRL with the Broncos in 2022.
The unexpected lynchpin: Te Maire Martin
It all ultimately led to him signing a three-year deal with the Warriors last year, to become an integral part of their fresh start under Andrew Webster.
Last Friday, playing on Kiwi soil again, he helped set up a try and played a key role in a 20-12 victory over the Knights, marking another milestone in a journey which was on a very different path this time in 2020.
“It’s all worked out really well. I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason,” Martin said.
“You hear people when they retire that they get into dark places and all that kind of stuff, but I never even thought like that. I was just too busy and having fun the whole time.
Everything happens for a reason, and I have got some good dogs now that can catch pigs, so I am really happy.Te Maire Martin
In addition to his hand in Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad's second-half try, Martin made several key defensive decisions against Newcastle, on a night in which he got through 18 tackles.
In many ways he epitomises what Webster wants the Warriors to be.
His resilience unquestioned, calm in the face of chaos, but at the same time so competitive that captain Tohu Harris describes him chasing down Knights players with the same ferocity of one of those aforementioned pig dogs with a sniff of a back country boar.
“Last two minutes of the game [on Friday] and he's flying out of the line trying to tackle Lachie Miller on the other side the field,” Harris said.
“He's one of our best competitors and he shows that in moments, but he really does have a calm side to him.
“He just seems to take the right options a lot of the time, which as a half is a very great attribute to have.”
Welcome back Charnze
A fortnight before the 2023 Telstra Premiership season kicked off, the birth of daughter Marnie, who has the same middle name, Rauhina, as Martin’s mum and sister, changed life again.
“You are so proud of your missus. Any parent watching the whole birth of a child, it is pretty crazy to see what the female body goes through, you appreciate how tough women are,” Martin said.
Not much sleep so far, it’s a grind – I think I’ll probably play my better games away now, because we get away and I’ll get a whole night of sleep – but Brigitte has been really good and having family support has been great too.Te Maire Martin
“My family are only two and a half hours away and her family are pretty close to Auckland as well, that definitely helps.
“Being in Brisbane when we found out was quite tough, and I was in talks to re-sign with Brisbane, but Brigitte was a lot more relaxed when she found out about the Warriors opportunity and that we could come back to New Zealand to have the baby.”