Originally published by Māori Television.
Tāharoa is a tiny village of fewer than 200 people southwest of Kawhia, but it's fair to assume every resident will be cheering on Te Maire Martin and his remarkable return to the NRL after a debilitating brain injury.
"I'm really soaking everything in at the moment because I know how quickly it can be gone," he said.
That's an understatement.
The 23-year-old from Taharoa with a passion for pig-hunting had it all. He played for the North Queensland Cowboys and was on an uphill trajectory when everything suddenly began to change. Running and exercise had always been a breeze but then the "migraines and headaches" started.
The doctors were mystified. There was no single incident to pin the change on. So they trawled through footage of all his games and practices to try to identify how or when exactly the injury occurred. Nothing.
All the doctors knew was that Te Maire had a brain injury and the dangerous potential for a brain bleed. The worst-case scenario was that he might never play league again.
The doctors gave their advice on his future.
"It was a question mark," Martin said. "They didn't know when I could be back because it was such a rare injury."
Due to come off his contract with the North Queensland Cowboys, Martin wasn't convinced the headaches and migraines would disappear. So he made the decision to pack it in. At just 23 years old, Martin was retiring after racking up 50 games in the NRL and four caps for the Kiwis.
Remarkably, Martin has always been a glass-half-full type of person.
"I'm always someone who tries to find the positives in stuff. And even though I had to finish up in the NRL I was straight away thinking about pig hunting and was on the phone to my brothers about it.
"I think if you dwell on it too much, you start getting in dark places. I was lucky I've got Taharoa to call home because there's so much stuff I enjoy doing there. That keeps me sane."
A graduate of Te Kura Amorangi o Whakawātea, Martin is from a proudly Māori speaking whānau.
"At home it was all reo and, once you got to school, it was all reo as well. My English, when I got to Hamilton Boys' High School, wasn't too flash. You probably don't appreciate it at the time, but looking back at it now, I certainly do - especially when you return home. It just rolls off the tongue."
He also isn't particularly offended by commentators who mispronounce his name.
"I suppose it could be frustrating hearing your name being pronounced wrongly but I've tried to correct people on how to say it. They do give it a crack and it's just hard for some Aussies to roll their Rs. As long as they're giving it a crack and not disrespectfully saying it, it's all good."
After his early retirement from the NRL, Martin enjoyed returning to his first loves; surfing, hunting and fishing in Taharoa. He spent two years teaching his beloved dogs how to hunt in the wild and even featured on an episode of Piri Tiki Tour with All Black Piri Weepu.
Two years after those first headaches and migraines struck, the condition began to disappear. At 26, Martin made the calculated decision to return to club rugby with his beloved Taharoa Steelers – the local team his father and brothers have all proudly represented.
"It went pretty good. I had a few games and then got to play for Waikato reps against Wellington and that was on TV, so I got a few eyes watching me over that game and my manager rang me up not long after that, asking me if I wanted to give it a crack again. And I got all the scans and stuff all sorted out. And once the specialist said that the chance of me getting that brain bleed again was like anyone else getting it, then it was all go from there."
It didn't take long for the NRL to come calling - six-time Premiership winners the Brisbane Broncos to be exact. Martin was given a one-year development contract and joined the club halfway through pre-season this year, with no promise that he might get a game.
But an injury to Brisbane Broncos fullback Tesi Niu last month opened the door for Martin. His comeback match against the Bulldogs was praised by many, including NRL legend Johnathan Thurston, as a spectacular return to the NRL. Since then, he's started in four consecutive matches and is now seen as the first-choice fullback for the Broncos.
The team has yet to lose a match since his debut for the club. The humble down-to-earth star player is enjoying his "second wind" and, surprisingly, keeping it all in perspective. He's also set himself a few goals.
"My first goal is to re-sign and hopefully get enough money to buy a farm and live off the land that backs onto a big bush or something like that.
"At the moment I'm just taking everything in … week by week, enjoying footy. Because in 2019, I didn't think the Bulldogs match was going to be my last game and like that, it was all gone.
"I'm just enjoying everything at the moment, whether it be taking photos with fans, rocking up to training a bit earlier and all that kind of stuff."