Blues enforcer Martin sets sights on wounded Munster
NSW second-rower Liam Martin is primed for another year of getting under the skin of Cameron Munster, declaring his trademark niggling is all part of the State of Origin spectacle.
With his hamstring woes in the past, Martin is keen to be unleashed on another Queenslander: Broncos firebrand Thomas Flegler.
Martin has been the Queensland crowd's pantomime villain since his Origin debut in the 2021 series opener, when he was deployed to goad Maroons five-eighth Munster.
The Penrith back-rower took to the assignment with the steady hand of an Origin veteran, eventually finding himself on the receiving end of a Munster kick in backplay as the Blues ran out to a 44-point victory.
In the wash-up from the series opener a year later, the Queensland media lashed Martin's "grubby tactics", such was his enthusiasm for reprising his role as Munster's agitator in chief.
After Melbourne's defeat of the Dolphins on Saturday night, Munster revealed he had been playing with a fractured rib for more than a month and later invited the Blues to send extra attention his way in Origin I on May 31.
Martin will be happy to oblige.
"We'll do our best and see how we go," the NSW man told AAP with a smile.
Martin's motor-mouth and physical defence are hardly reserved for the Origin arena - in the NRL's round 11 he sent his attention the way of Sydney Roosters prop Matthew Lodge, who shoved the second-rower in backplay while the Panthers were running away with the game.
But it's a tactic Martin knows is perfect for the vitriolic arena when NSW and Queensland go head to head.
"It's in-built in the game," he said.
"It's sort of how I play, I try to get under the other team's skin.
"You have to bring that passion out on the field. When I'm playing my best, that's how I play.
"I'll definitely be bringing it this game and hopefully it makes a difference."
This time last month, Martin was facing the possibility of missing out on the series altogether.
A hamstring injury rubbed him out of the Panthers' round-four fixture on game day, and after he inflamed his troublesome leg on his return in round seven, he spent more time out.
"I just kept re-aggravating it and getting setback after setback," Martin said.
"I didn't know how long I would be out there. It was really frustrating. It felt good to be back out the last two weeks.
"I'm really excited (for Origin). It's always a massive honour to pull on this jersey. I'm really keen to get out there."
Brisbane Broncos prop Flegler looms as the next man on Martin's hit-list.
Flegler is known as a fiery customer and will be making his return to the Queensland set-up after missing selection last year.
"I might have to (niggle at him)," Martin said.
"He's a great player, he's certainly a big boy. I'll have to get stuck in to him. Keen for that."