Te Maire Martin is set to cap a remarkable comeback after three years on the sideline by pulling on a New Zealand jersey again.
Martin played four Tests for the Kiwis before being forced into premature retirement in 2019 due bleeding on the brain but the 27-year-old fullback has made a stunning return this season with the Brisbane Broncos.
After being cleared by a specialist, Martin played park football in the King Country with his brothers last year but he is now poised to star on the game’s biggest stage with the Mt Smart Stadium Test a precursor to the end of season World Cup in England.
Should he be selected to play against Tonga, it will be a stunning return to the international arena for Martin, whose last appearance for New Zealand coincided with Kiwis head coach Michael Maguire’s first Test in charge against England in Denver four years ago.
Maguire has named a new look team chosen on form, with Parramatta Eels playmaker Dylan Brown and Cronulla Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo are among eight potential debutants in the squad.
With Shaun Johnson and Kodi Nikorima overlooked, Brown is set to partner Melbourne Storm halfback Jahrome Hughes at the scrum-base, while Mulitalo is likey to play outside in-form North Queensland centre Peta Hiku or Sydney Roosters star Joey Manu.
Other new faces include Panthers duo Moses Leota and Scott Sorensen, both instrumental in Penrith’s dominance over the last three seasons, Parramatta back-rower Marata Niukore and Gold Coast Titans hooker Erin Clark.
Former Junior Kiwi teammates Griffin Neame (North Queensland Cowboys) and Jordan Riki (Brisbane Broncos) have also received call-ups.
— NZ Rugby League (@NZRL_Kiwis) June 15, 2022
Penrith prop James Fisher-Harris and Parramatta second-rower Isaiah Papali’i will feature in a strong forward pack which includes Canberra Raiders front-rower Joseph Tapine and Melbourne’s Brandon Smith, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and the Bromwich brothers Jesse and Kenny.
“I know how much the black and white jersey means to these players,” Maguire said. “To finally return home after two years and play for your country in front of fans and whānau, this Test will be special.
“This squad has an exciting mix of fresh talent and experienced Kiwis having some of their best seasons. We have a strong spine of leaders throughout the group that play a crucial role in the team, especially with these new boys coming through.
“Some difficult decisions have had to be made, but it’s a positive sign of our depth in certain positions. With the quality of Kiwi talent on display throughout the NRL, we are in a strong place as we look to build a solid foundation ahead of the Rugby League World Cup come October.”
Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm)
Jesse Bromwich (Storm)
Kenneath Bromwich (Storm)
Dylan Brown (Eels)
Erin Clark (Titans)
James Fisher-Harris (Panthers)
Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles)
Peta Hiku (Cowboys)
Jahrome Hughes (Storm)
Moses Leota (Panthers)
Isaac Liu (Titans)
Joseph Manu (Roosters)
Te Maire Martin (Broncos)
Ken Maumalo (Wests Tigers)
Ronaldo Mulitalo (Sharks)
Griffin Neame (Cowboys)
Briton Nikora (Sharks)
Marata Niukore (Eels)
Isaiah Papali’i (Eels)
Jordan Rapana (Raiders)
Jordan Riki (Broncos)
Brandon Smith (Storm)
Scott Sorensen (Panthers)
Joseph Tapine (Raiders)