NRL: New signing Te Maire Martin relishes Shaun Johnson reunion as NZ Warriors halves pairing

As the 2023 NRL season ticks closer, NZ Warriors fans can begin to get excited about the new halves pairing of Kiwis internationals Sean Johnson and new signing Te Maire Martin.

After the better part of three seasons on the road thanks to COVID-19 and travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, this year will see the Warriors able to be New Zealand's team once again.

And to tempt fans back to Mt Smart, the Warriors have invested in the team to - hopefully - contend to get back into the NRL's top eight.

In the spine, Martin is joined by returning fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, while Kiwis back rower Marata Niukore has also signed after helping Parramatta Eels to last year's NRL Grand Final.

Shaun Johnson.
Shaun Johnson. Photo credit: Photosport

And under the tutelage of new coach Andrew Webster - also returning to the club after previously working as an assistant to Andrew McFadden - optimism is high at Mt Smart Stadium.

In particular, the arrivals of Martin and Nicoll-Klokstad in combination with Johnson and hooker Wayde Egan will see the Warriors boast, on paper, one of the strongest spines ever seen at the club.

Despite playing at fullback during his return to the NRL with Brisbane Broncos last season, 27-year-old Martin is expected to wear No.6 for the Warriors this year, forming the halves pairing alongside Johnson - the club's all-time leading scorer.

And for Martin himself, Webster's influence in tandem with the attacking talent at his disposal, namely Johnson, will be a sight to watch in 2023.

"Sean's still the same as when I [last] played with him, I think the last time would have been 2017 in the World Cup," Martin told Newshub.

"He's still got the freak abilities, [and] can still do some freakish stuff at training.

"It's all [about] trying to click on to how he plays, get our shapes around how he likes to play them and what he's good at. 

"He's good at a lot of things, it's [about] trying to get everyone around him ready for it. That's where Webby [Webster] comes in really well, getting a gameplan to show what everyone's good at, and play what they're best at.

"He's really clever, it's just trying to get on to how Webby's thinking. You've got all these good ideas for us, we just have to buy in.

Te Maire Martin in Warriors pre-season training.
Te Maire Martin in Warriors pre-season training. Photo credit: Photosport

"And that's what we've been doing the whole pre-season, learning. Everyone's willing to learn, when you have that, it's [about] getting the reps in and getting it done.

"At the start of the pre-season, our goal was to get through the pre-season well and learn new things. 

"We're doing that well at the moment. We've got a few weeks left, it's exciting."

Johnson is currently in the final year of his contract with the Warriors, with the 32-year-old also playing for a new deal this year.

Martin's signing for the Warriors is just the latest chapter in an otherwise incredible story.

After being earmarked as the man to replace the legendary Johnathan Thurston at North Queensland Cowboys, Martin was forced out of the game altogether in 2019 due to a brain bleed.

But in 2021, Martin made his comeback playing for Waikato Mana in New Zealand's National Competition, before heading back across the Tasman to join Brisbane Broncos in 2022.

However, Brisbane's acquisition of Reece Walsh from the Warriors last year saw the stars align, as Martin penned a three-year deal to return to New Zealand.

And despite all the ups and downs of his career already, playing for the Warriors was something Martin never saw coming.

"I never really thought too much about playing for the Warriors, to be honest. I was always a rugby union kid growing up. 

"I always supported the Chiefs, and wanted to play for the Chiefs and the All Blacks. I got the opportunity to go to Australia, and it all went from there.

"Last year I got the opportunity to go to Brisbane and get my foot back in the door of rugby league again. 

"It all worked out, we've got a kid on the way. Being able to move home and play footy was a no-brainer.

"Knowing Webby too, that he was going to be the coach, he called me up and we had a good chat about where he wants to take the club, and his plans.

"I was all for it."

The Warriors begin their 2023 NRL campaign at home to Newcastle Knights on Friday March 3.