Martin Back To Boost PNG
Papua New Guinea back-rower Rhyse Martin is expecting a fired up Cook Islands outfit after the minnow nation missed qualification for the upcoming 2017 Rugby League World Cup in October.
With the Kumuls set to host matches in the tournament, Martin and his teammates were spared the pressures of qualifying for the biggest event on the rugby league calendar, yet are well-prepared heading into their clash on Saturday afternoon.
PNG snapped a six-year drought in a corresponding Pacific Test match last May with a 24-22 upset win over Fiji.
After a stint for the Townsville Blackhawks in Queensland's Intrust Super Premiership, 24-year-old Martin returned to Sydney and linked up with the Canterbury Bulldogs on a two-year deal under the guidance of Des Hasler this season.
"Everyone is passionate about their country and wants to do all their families proud so they're (Cook Islands) going to come ready to win and prove a point," Martin told NRL.com.
"They've got some really talented players with NRL experience but we definitely keep an eye on our halves and Justin Olam on the wing.
"A lot of our middle forwards that play for the Hunters are physical guys and the Albert brothers bounce off each other's passion so they're both keys for us.
"I remember the Pacific Test two years ago, Stanton [Albert] scored a really decent try to put us back into the game, he's an exciting player."
Martin made the tough decision to miss the last two seasons of representative football with PNG to set himself up for life off-field but returns to play his second international match on the weekend.
"I decided to finish my apprenticeship in a refrigeration mechanic trade and got that out of the way, I couldn't take time off during my block exams otherwise I would have had to redo it," he said.
"I love coming into camp with the boys, everyone is so close and I met them all about three years ago when I first came into the PNG system in 2014 so I've got some good friends here.
"We've all played a couple of games together now, there are plenty of young blokes here and none have played in a World Cup so they're fighting for positions in that squad at the end of the year.
"It's healthy competition among the boys but we're a family with a great coaching staff behind us and a lot of old Kumuls players involved as well."
Yet to make his NRL debut in the Telstra Premiership in Des Hasler's line-up, the Prosperine junior heads into the clash on the back of a two-goal and one try performance for the Bulldogs in the Intrust Super Premiership against Mounties.
"The move [to Canterbury] has been great, it's a very family-based club and everyone is close," Martin said.
"I had Josh Reynolds, Michael Lichaa and Moses Mbye when I first turned up and took me under their wing to lunches and dinner so I got to know them really quick and made the transition back to Sydney easy," he said.
"Even a guy like James Graham, once you get to know him, he's really open and makes you feel really welcome."
Papua New Guinea beat the Cook Islands 42-14 in their only fixture between the two sides back in 2009.
This article first appeared on NRL.com