Te Maire Martin released by Panthers to Cowboys as potential Johnathan Thurston successor

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    Penrith have released New Zealand five-eighth Te Maire Martin, who is set for an immediate switch to NRL rivals North Queensland.

    The Panthers’ first-choice No.6 at the start of the season when they had been flagged as equal favourites, Martin has not been sighted in first grade since round seven.

    Since then, Penrith have used Bryce Cartwright and Matt Moylan at five-eighth to partner Nathan Cleary, with general manager Phil Gould on Friday confirming the 21-year-old’s departure.

    “He made his NRL debut at the Panthers and it led to him earning representative honours for New Zealand at the Four Nations.

    “I have no doubt Te Maire will have a long and successful career in the NRL, and we wish him all the best for the future.”

    Martin had been previously linked to the Warriors as a possible mid-season move, however talks had broken down with the Auckland-based club.

    And he confirmed to Fairfax Media on Friday he had decided to shift to the Cowboys to work alongside Australian and Queensland playmaker Johnathan Thurston.

    “When I got a call from my manager saying the Cowboys were interested, it was hard to turn down when Thurston is up there,” he said.

    “I can learn off Thurston as much as I can – it’s only going to make me a better player.”

    Martin will likely have to bide his time in Queensland Cup, while Thurston and Queensland bench utility Michael Morgan fill the halves.

    The Cowboys have also used Ben Hampton and Ray Thompson in playmaking roles this season and off the bench.

    Intriguingly, Martin’s first chance at selection could come next week against Penrith, with the Cowboys hosting the Panthers in Townsville immediately after State of Origin II.