Panthers duo look forward to trial game team-up
RUGBY LEAGUE: The last time Te Maire Martin and Nathan Cleary shared a football field, they were wearing different colours.
In fact they've only shared a playing field once. Ever.
That was back in 2015 during an under 20s clash between Wests Tigers and Penrith. Martin was leading the former while a younger Cleary was making his NYC debut for the latter. He was 17 years old.
Martin can't recall the specifics of that day, only that his Tigers scraped home with the win.
Cleary can remember the occasion a little better.
"That was my 20s debut actually," Cleary tells foxsports.com.au.
"He (Martin) got me a beauty."
A two-year age gap meant Martin and Cleary never squared up in their junior grades.
That one NYC game was the only time they laid eyes on each other until Martin arrived for pre-season training at Penrith a couple of months later.
And while that fateful day is mostly fuzzy in Martin's memory, he remembers the first impression he had of that unknown Panthers debutant.
"I can't remember what the score was but I remember playing against him," Martin said of Cleary.
"He was a gun back then too. He's always been good."
On Saturday night the young halves will finally get the chance to play alongside each other.
Cleary and Martin will line up at halfback and five-eighth respectively when Penrith takes on Parramatta in a trial at Pepper Stadium.
Fate has kept them apart for too long. Martin played just six games in his rookie season before a shoulder injury cruelled his 2016 campaign.
Cleary replaced his mate in the side, but even when veteran Jamie Soward left the club mid-season the young halves couldn't get a gig together.
Instead, coach Anthony Griffin threw Bryce Cartwright in to form a combination with Cleary.
It's been a long wait.
"It will be exciting, finally getting to play alongside each other," Martin said.
"He leads the team around quite well which makes my job easier, and I sort of chill out on the edge and ask for the ball when I want it."