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Warriors playmaker Te Maire Martin concedes he’s felt rusty in his return to the NRL after a five-month injury lay-off but is confident that has now gone ahead of a semi-final clash on Saturday.

The Warriors will take on either the Knights or Raiders at Go Media Stadium in Auckland after they were beaten by the Panthers in the opening week of the finals with Andrew Webster’s side missing star halfback Shaun Johnson.

Martin, who said Johnson’s late withdrawal did not impact the side’s build-up to the Panthers loss, was confident they could regroup in time for their home final.

“The Panthers are just relentless in what they do,” Martin said. “If you give away the ball the amount of times we did they make you pay for it.

“There were some parts of the arm-wrestle we were winning and then we’d give away a penalty and they’d get on top of us.

“It’s attention to detail and little things like that which is an easy fix that if we take into next week, it will be a good result for us.

“I felt like we were there physically well but mentally we weren’t in the right areas at the right time.

Warriors: Finals Week 1

“It was the first time I’ve played seven since I’ve come here but it wasn’t too bad. Everyone was clear in their roles. We all slipped into it.

“I thought it wasn’t too bad but obviously having Shaun Johnson out, one of our best players, does hurt.”

Martin returned to the field last week after breaking his leg in Round 6 against the Knights with the injury keeping him sidelined for over five months.

A season-ending hamstring injury to Luke Metcalf opened the door for Martin’s return with the 27-year-old now playing catch-up with the rest of his teammates as the Warriors look to capitalise on their top four finish.

“It’s been alright, to be honest,” Martin said of his return.

“Fitness-wise I’ve felt alright. I’m better after the two games so I’ll be more confident next week.

“The leg is sweet, the lungs are alright. It was an ugly [leg] break. It was a break, and then [the bone] shattered.

“They tried to put a rod in there but because it was in pieces they put a plate there.

“It was always going to take a while but it did drag on a little bit too long but everything happens for a reason.”

The Warriors returned to New Zealand on Sunday in preparation for their semi-final match – the first for the club on home turf since 2008.

Martin wanted to embrace the build-up to the week while also understanding there was a job to do.

“We’ve got to ride the mental wave and there will be a lot of emotion but we’ve got no lives now so we’ve got to be full on board ready to go and I know the boys will be,” he said.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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