IF EVER a new arrival from the NRL needs an instant feel of what life in Super League can be like, a trip to the creaking, old but always atmospheric Wheldon Road should do the trick.
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Leeds Rhinos’ Rhyse Martin is set to experience that on Friday night; come 9.45pm he will already know all about Super League and all about Castleford where vocal fans stand on the terraces, crammed in so close to the pitch they can almost touch you.
But, of late, things have happened quickly for the Papua New Guinea second-row who, just a week ago, was in an entirely different arena, preparing to play for Canterbury Bulldogs against Cronulla Sharks in Sydney.
Leeds, of course, are in trouble and in need of crucial points against Castleford – who have seen in-form prop Liam Watts commit to a new long-term contract – to pull away from relegation fears.
It is no surprise they looked Down Under to strengthen their squad with Martin their third signing inside a week.
I am looking forward to my first game in Super League and getting to experience what I have heard about the crowds, how crazy they are.Leeds Rhinos’ Rhyse Martin
He only landed on Wednesday and trained for the first time with his new team-mates yesterday but is ready to be thrown straight into action if interim head coach Richard Agar decides to do so.
Leeds arrested their slump with a crucial win over Catalans Dragons last week and they urgently need to back that up although they do have a wretched recent record at Wheldon Road.
“A few of the boys tell me everyone hates us,” said Martin, after completing his first and only training session.
“That’s what I’ve learned! I am very excited. I have heard a little bit about the (Castleford) field and the stadium.
“I am looking forward to my first game in Super League and getting to experience what I have heard about the crowds, how crazy they are.
“Training was really good. I just did a little crash course on all the plays and our defensive structures with Richard in the morning then got on the field.
“It has been a week to the day since I got the offer from Leeds, so it has been a whirlwind.
“But it is good they got me across here so quick so I can focus on the rest of the year.”
Goalkicker Martin, 26, was born in Australia but qualifies for PNG through his father and has signed until the end of 2021.
Watts, meanwhile, has turned down interest from the NRL to stay with his hometown Castleford, a real boost for them ahead of Friday night’s derby.
He has been a revelation since Tigers bought him from Hull FC last April and, though contracted until the end of 2020, has now extended that to 2023.
Watts turns 29 on Monday and is in contention for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award.
“Coming here I think I’ve got rid of the reputation I had at Hull,” he said.
“I’ve settled down and I’m not as erratic. That’s probably got me into the England squad and I’ve just got to keep playing well for the rest of the year to keep my place in that.
“I feel like everything has come together for me personally; I know where I’m going to be for the next four years and I’m really happy.”
As is Castleford coach Daryl Powell, who added: “He is having one of his best-ever seasons which, on current form, will see him travel with the Great Britain squad this winter.”
But before the Kiwis, Tonga and PNG, come Leeds and Castleford need a win themselves – Powell calls it a “crucial game” – to maintain their top-five place.
Everything is set as these old rivals clash once more.