A bulked-up Te Maire Martin was one of Penrith's best in their 20-10 trial win over the Bulldogs on Saturday night, but the five-eighth refused to buy into talk that he had wrapped up the No.6 jersey leading into the Telstra Premiership season.
The 21-year-old Kiwis representative laid on a first-half try with a crafty double pump and wasn't afraid to take the line on against Canterbury's monster pack.
While he wasn't overly pleased with his own performance, most experts in attendance agreed that he should make his NRL return in the halves alongside fellow young gun Nathan Cleary, with Bryce Cartwright – who played so well in the No.6 jersey last season – switching to the back-row.
"I don't think it's guaranteed yet. I think that's what all the trials are for. Hopefully I can get there, but on that performance I can't be sure," Martin said.
"I was a bit crusty on that performance but we've got another trial coming up [against the Eels next week].
"Cleary does a lot of that [directional] stuff, but I was a bit crusty on that stuff. I suppose I'll get back to training and learn a bit more and ask some more questions."
Martin took the NRL by storm last season when he scored a try and then kicked the winning field goal on debut against the Broncos, but he only lasted five more matches after suffering what was originally diagnosed as a season-ending shoulder injury.
The news proved to be better than first thought, and while he didn't return to first grade, he managed to make a confidence-building comeback in the Intrust Super Premiership at the back end of the year.
"It was good to be back on the paddock," he said.
"Just playing [Intrust Super Premiership] NSW Cup at the end was good because I was actually meant to be out for the whole year to so to play a few games at the end was good. Just getting back to trials is pretty good, and to take on NRL boys and play with NRL boys is good.
"It (playing reserve grade) helped me coming into this year. I would've been a lot more nervous playing this game having not played any games last year."
On the shoulder injury itself, Martin said he no longer felt the ill-effects of the knock, but admitted there were still a few mental demons he had to overcome.
"It's back to normal. I've just got to put some muscle on it now," he said.
"It's still in the back of my mind, but I tackled with it tonight. I put my head on the wrong side a couple of times just to use it.
"It feels alright so I don't think I can blame it anymore. Last year I was blaming my shoulder for missing tackles, but I can't do that anymore."
After debuting at 87kg last year, Martin bulked up in the off-season and was three kilos heavier for Saturday night's clash.
The youngster said Panthers coach Anthony Griffin wanted him to put on some much-needed size, and Martin is already feeling the benefits of the minor weight gain.
"He (Griffin) wants me to stay at the weight that I'm at; he's pretty happy with the weight that I'm at now," he said.
"It was a big shock getting into the NRL against big bodies and my body is still getting used to it.
"It's a lot to do with what you do off-field with rehab and stuff like that. I think I'll take that into consideration this year with recovery and stretching and doing my weights properly in the pre-season and during the week."
This article first appeared on NRL.com