In a weird way, Te Maire Martin is back where it all began. Two years on from his premature retirement due to a brain bleed, the 26-year-old has returned home and is set to turn out for the Warriors in 2023.
The Kiwi international completed a remarkable comeback to the sport last season when he played for Brisbane, marking the first time that he’d featured in the NRL in over 1,000 days.
“The head injury started actually the game we played here,” the former North Queensland star told local New Zealand media, when recounting the injury that once threatened to derail his promising career.
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“After that game, I started getting headaches all week. I wasn’t too sure what it was, and it got to the point where it started getting really bad, like real consistent.
“So, I went and seen the doctor and he sent me to the hospital, and I got scans and that’s when they saw a little brain bleed at the back.”
Martin was just four years into his career at that point, having made his debut for Penrith before switching to the Cowboys the following season.
In Townsville, he carved out a name for himself playing alongside Michael Morgan as the club rode a wave of momentum all the way to the 2017 grand final which ultimately ended in heartbreak against the Storm.
It was Morgan who witnessed firsthand the issues Martin faced after sitting next to him during a flight that made Martin realise that something was drastically wrong.
“I fell asleep on the plane and as the plane started to land, I woke up,” Martin told The Courier Mail in 2019.
“It felt like something was squeezing my head, like it could explode.
“It was so painful I started grabbing my head with my hands. Morgo was sitting next to me, and he said, ’Mate, what’s going on, are you Ok?’
“I then told him about the headaches.”
A few weeks earlier, the Cowboys had played the Warriors with Martin enduring headaches in the lead up to the game.
Although, after this round six match, the severity and regularity increased to such an extent he nursed a migraine throughout what turned out to be his final game in North Queensland colours against the Bulldogs.
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“We were doing shoulder pummels in the warm-up and every time I was hitting my teammate, it felt like my brain was banging around in my head,” Martin remembered.
The scans revealed the extent of his injury which eventually forced him into an early retirement.
“It was a head pain I couldn’t shake off no matter what I did,” he said.
“Even little things became hard. Driving a car was making me sick. Watching TV was too much, all the bright lights would give me headaches. So, I’d close the curtains and try to sleep for days and days.”
However, after finally receiving a doctor’s clearance, Martin set about on his journey back to the top which began in the Queensland Cup, before he earned a contract with the Broncos.
“It’s been a long two and a half years to get my career back on track,’ Martin said after a trial match in February this year.
“When my scans came back giving me the all-clear, I wanted to come back.”
Martin managed to do so against Canterbury in round seven, starring at fullback with 147m from 15 carries.
“Obviously, I was 23, 24 at the time of when it happened. I’d played a fair few first-grade games by then and I was really starting to enjoy playing first-grade week in, week out,” he said.
“To have that taken away just like that was a pretty big shock.
“It means a lot more when you’re playing for somewhere where you’re from” – Te Maire Martinhttps://t.co/ZnHpDWwugy
— One NZ Warriors (@NZWarriors) December 9, 2022
“I didn’t think I was going to come back and play for the Warriors, to be honest – as much as I wanted to.
“When Webby [Andrew Webster] gave me the call, I was really keen. It’s always good to be home…It means a lot more when you’re playing for somewhere where you’re from.”
Martin signed a three-year deal with the Warriors after impressing during his short stint at Brisbane.
Despite playing fullback for Kevin Walters, Martin will line up alongside Shaun Johnson in the halves next year where he will attempt to help New Zealand bounce back from their own difficult past few years.
“I’m excited to get into the season and rip in,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting back into the front line and being around the ball a bit more.
“But like I said, wherever Webby wants me to go, I’m happy to go there. I’m excited to be back here with the Warriors and I’m keen to put the jersey on.”