New Zealand coach David Kidwell has admitted he was tempted to name young Panthers five-eighth Te Maire Martin for Saturday night's Four Nations warm-up Test against Australia in Perth.
Martin was a shock inclusion in Kidwell's 24-man Kiwis squad last week after not featuring in the NRL since April due to a severe shoulder complaint.
Opting for veteran Wigan playmaker Thomas Leuluai to face the Kangaroos, Kidwell was proud to see how far Martin has come in a short space of time.
Kidwell played a crucial role in Martin's early development at the Wests Tigers – where he spent two years carving out an illustrious Holden Cup career – before signing for the Panthers this season.
When it came down to the final decision, the club combinations between Leuluai, hooker Issac Luke and centre Solomone Kata were too good for the Kiwis to deny.
"There's a balance you need in Test teams. You have a look at the Kangaroos' experienced spine and that's exactly what they have," Kidwell said.
"We definitely needed some experienced heads in our spine to make sure that through the tough times we have someone to rely on."
Kidwell was adamant that he wouldn't think twice about selecting Martin for New Zealand if the situation arises at the Four Nations.
"I know what he's capable of," Kidwell said. "If I need to use him at the Four Nations, I'll have no hesitations in doing so.
"Seeing him around the experienced Kiwis here - his eyes are wide open and he is taking it all in."
Happy to be in the company that he finds himself in, Martin would be buoyed to know his experienced teammates have a high opinion of him.
Melbourne Storm back-rower Tohu Harris agreed with Kidwell's sentiment by backing the 21-year-old to make his Test debut in the United Kingdom.
"Te Maire's a good young kid and has a good head on his shoulders. We're very confident that he'll be able to play his role and do what he needs to do for the team," the 11-time Kiwi said.
"Any Test match is a big occasion especially when it comes to a young player's career. The rest of us will be making sure that he's all good and help him to get as ready as he can be to play."
While the Kiwis will be without Simon Mannering for this weekend's game, Kidwell said he is well on track to recover from minor knee surgery in time for the Four Nations in a fortnight.
Mannering's inclusion will inevitably cause a reshuffle in Kidwell's named 17 and may see Harris don the No. 6 jumper for just the second time in his Test career.
This article first appeared on NRL.com.