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The heartache and pride driving 'Mummy's boy' Martin

Every winter weekend for more than 20 years now, Maxine Martin has loaded up her car and made tracks to the footy. 

Racked up more mileage than a bible salesman touring Mississippi in the process.

By our count, more than half a million kilometres to watch her sons in action.

"Mum would have done 1000km a week just for footy, she puts more than 50,000km on the car each year easily," Panthers back-rower Liam Martin grins.

"She just loves it. She travelled down [to Sydney] every week during that SG Ball year but my whole footy career she's driven me all over the place from Temora.

"That's just country footy, you drive all over. Albury's what three hours away from us? That's just a regular trip.

"It takes a fair bit for Mum to miss a game, growing up through juniors, I think she missed four games all up."

 
 
 
 
 
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Happy birthday mumma ❤️❤️

A post shared by Liam Martin (@marto_97) on

The Martin mum and son duo famously made the 900km round trip from their farm outside of Barmedman, population of 500 or so, to Penrith each and every week of the Panthers' 2015 SG Ball season.

Liam knocked over his homework in the back seat, because you can't get away with much when Mum's the local English teacher.

And those four games Maxine couldn't burn rubber to get to?

"Two of those were because she was having radiotherapy for breast cancer," Martin says.

"Another one was when I played over in New Zealand for NSW Country in under 16s.

"Mum was happy leaving me to it but then at the last minute decides she's got to go. So she was madly trying to get a passport and was running her way through that process, it arrived the day of the game.

"She would've swam if she thought she'd make kick-off."

Maxine's reputation at West Wyalong High according to her son is "a hard lady who doesn't take much shit".

Good luck to the kids then who flipped her Zoom screen upside down, with Ms Martin unable to switch it back, when Penrith dialled her in for Liam's re-signing announcement in August.

 

SIGN OF THE TIMES. Liam Martin puts pen to paper as Zoom watches on and his mum fights a losing battle with her webcam...

Posted by Penrith Panthers on Wednesday, 19 August 2020

The same "no shit" approach held the Martin family together when Liam's older brother Jarred took his own life in 2014, aged just 22.

And the mantra also helped push Maxine out the other side of a breast cancer diagnosis – and back to the footy – just a year later.

"We found out right before I moved down to Sydney and that was pretty rough," Martin says.

"I was 18, the last year I lived at home.

"My grandmother passed away from breast cancer and when [Maxine] got the news she expected the worst.

"She can be a bit blunt, Mum. She just goes 'Nup, I'm done'. But she's also very tough, fought it and beat it. She's sweet now.

"It was a couple of months, fortunately she didn't have to do chemo so that was lucky. It was radiotherapy and surgery I think, we were lucky she didn't have to go through that chemo.

"She missed two weeks of my games when I was playing local footy and she was filthy. She's pretty special, Mum, she was battling this disease but blowing up about missing my game."

Martin beats Moylan and goes all the way

Like any son, Liam had reservations about moving to Penrith after the heartache his family had been through.

Maxine wasn't having it. On a rare weekend off during under 20s Martin drove home on a Friday night, pulling into the farm after midnight to surprise her.

"I'm banging on the back door and Mum's come out with a tennis racquet, and got stuck into me," he laughs.

"'What are you doing home? You're meant to be back in Penrith.'

"It was so tough leaving her. I'm the youngest of five so the rest of them reckon I was the golden child.

"I'm a mummy's boy. Leaving her I was quite homesick, I wanted to just see her and be there for her.

"She's been through quite a lot. It was very tough, we're just very fortunate to come out the other side together."

Most every week, Maxine is there at Penrith Stadium in the same seats of the western grandstand.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn't stopped her or his brother and sisters making their trips in from the various parts of NSW they have all landed, though post-game catch-ups aren't the same without a hug.

Jarred of course is never far from the family's thoughts either.

All will be there at ANZ Stadium on Sunday when Martin runs out to face Melbourne.

Maxine and his siblings in the stands, Jarred, and his old 'hard work beats talent' mantra in mind whenever his little brother needs to muscle up for an extended defensive stint.

 
 
 
 
 
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Never got to play that game together but every time I step on that field I feel you looking over me. Hope I'm doing you proud brother ❤️

A post shared by Liam Martin (@marto_97) on

Making all those miles behind the wheel more than worth it.

"Mum's so incredibly proud," Martin says.

"She's always telling me. It puts a smile on my face. Everything she's been through, you definitely do see it take a toll sometimes.

Panthers v Storm - Grand final

"Having the chance to play footy and make her proud, this is why I do it.

"Being able to make her smile and see her cheering, it makes things so much better after seeing her struggle through those very tough times.

"Mum lives for it and that's what she tells me. 'I just love watching you live your dream'."

 

Help is available 24/7 for anyone who has mental health issues by calling Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14

For further information on the NRL State of Mind program, click here