League: Martin's right on the mark

By Peter Jessup

Tony Martin is something of a statistician, at least on his own goal-kicking prowess. He says he's on 80.6 per cent accuracy after landing nine from nine against Souths last weekend.

He went into the game knowing he needed eight successful kicks to crack the mark.

He goes into tomorrow's contest against the Bulldogs knowing they score six-point tries "because Hazem [El Masri] doesn't miss from anywhere".

Martin feels great responsibility in lining up the goals. He knows what it means to the critical confidence component when you stretch the lead or close the gap by two points more.

At the end of last year he approached new coach Ivan Cleary and asked for the job.

"I didn't enjoy it before when I had to do it but I do now. I like the responsibility; it's another way to contribute to the result. Even if you are 30 points up, it doesn't matter, you still want to get that one goal."

His ninth kick against Souths, taken from the sideline, hit the crossbar and slid over.

"They give you confidence, those ones. I was due one after two bounced back against Melbourne."

He's had training from former Kiwi Daryl Halligan, who changed his approach to make it more side-on than straight-on.

"He's given me things to think about and I've certainly benefited as a result of his experience.

"You can either kick or you can't - he hasn't tried to make me kick like him."

Martin feels the Warriors are starting to click, their combinations are smoother, the passes are better timed and the back-up is there.

Personally, he feels better at centre than on the wing, where he started the season, or at fullback, where he has been used before.

But starting anywhere is good after a neck/shoulder problem kept him out for much of last year.

He had fusion surgery and admits to one nervous moment this season when lifted and turned on his head in round three against the Tigers.

"I had a flash. The first thing in my mind was, 'Don't let it happen again', and I realised it was in the subconscious," Martin said.

But landing safely, without pain, gave him more confidence about the injury and rehabilitation. "It's better every week and I haven't thought about it much since that tackle."

Nor is he thinking too much about becoming eligible for the Kiwis by the end of the NRL season and in time to take part in the Tri-Nations.

But it is in the back of his mind and he has made a choice. He has been married to wife Mel for six years and they were together travelling the league world before that.

The daughter of Kiwi parents who shifted to Martin's home town of Gladstone in Queensland, she was with him in Melbourne, then at the London Broncos, before he signed for the Auckland club in 2004.

The couple arrived in NZ just as Tana Umaga was made All Black captain, and named their son after him.

"It's only right I cheer for the Kiwis," Martin said about next Friday's test.

Martin is focused on performing for the Warriors. If selected for the end-of-year Tri-Nations test, that would be good reward.

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