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Tears, cheers and a mad dash: Inside Martin's late call-up for Blue debut

Liam Martin's rollercoaster selection for the NSW side started with a phone call from a coy Ivan Cleary attempting to console him before ending in a mad dash to Coogee to join his Origin teammates.

Cleary phoned Martin when it looked like the second-rower had missed out on the squad to tell him to keep his chin up.

But he only had to wait another 20 minutes before another phone call sent him spinning in the other direction. Martin suspects Cleary knew all along but didn't want to jump the gun by telling him before it was official.

He is one of three debutants named in the game-night 17 for the series opener alongside Panthers comrades Jarome Luai and Brian To'o.

Martin was a late addition to the squad on Sunday night after Knights forward Tyson Frizell was ruled out with an ankle injury.

Blues forward Liam Martin.
Blues forward Liam Martin. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

After Cleary's words of encouragement, a phone call came through from the number of Panthers head of performance Hayden Knowles, who is also in Blues camp.

Instead of Knowles on the other end of the line, it was Brad Fittler, asking how far away the Panthers forward lived from Blues camp in Coogee.

"I said not that far and then he just said 'congrats mate'," Martin told

"I threw everything in my bag and got to Coogee as fast as I could. I was bloody ecstatic.

"Throughout the day I hadn't heard anything and people were asking. I just thought it wasn't going to happen."

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Martin's journey was different from the rest of his Panthers teammates, who had already joined NSW camp several hours earlier.

It enabled the 24-year-old to reflect on the past three years to the representative arena while making the hour commute to Sydney's east.

His mind naturally, went to his older brother Jarred, who died in 2014 due to mental health issues when Martin was a teenager.

Martin, who has grieved alongside his mother and biggest fan Maxine, have been by each other's side and bonded through rugby league ever since the tragedy.

"On the way in I shed a bit of a tear just thinking about it," Martin said.

"Growing up and especially in the bush all you wanted to do was put on a sky-blue jersey and just to do that now, I can't believe it.

"I can't put it into words but I just hope I'm always doing him proud."

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After speaking to a proud Maxine a short time following the call-up from Fittler, none other than Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett was also on the phone to the Temora product.

Barrett is Martin's uncle and has played a role in his development throughout his career and life.

"I used to love watching Baz play Origin, for a halfback he was pretty aggressive," Martin grinned.

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"He rang me as well straight away when it got announced. He said to enjoy the week and that it's one of the best feelings ever, running out for NSW.

"Everyone will try and tell you but until you get out there, I don't know what to expect at the moment.

"Whatever role I play I'll give my 110% and rip in. I'm looking forward to the game, it will be fun to play in a hostile environment."


Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.