Martin's emotional Penrith return six years in making

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Te Maire Martin is on the verge of completing an emotional six-year journey back to BlueBet Stadium.

It is an odyssey that has included a grand final for North Queensland, an early retirement from rugby league, a comeback at Brisbane and most recently a broken leg at the Warriors.

No less than four key Warriors will make their return to their former home at Penrith on Saturday night, including the Panthers' former assistant coach Andrew Webster.

Winger Dallin Waetene-Zelezniak debuted at the foot of the mountains in 2014, while Wayde Egan was a young dummy-half in their system until the end of 2019.

But Martin's is the most stirring - for him and his former Penrith teammates.

A Kiwi junior, Martin landed at Penrith from Wests Tigers in 2015 and kicked a match-winning field goal on debut for the Panthers a year later.

He left the club in mid-2017 when stuck behind Nathan Cleary and Matt Moylan in the halves, but played in that year's grand final loss at the Cowboys.

The years since have been difficult.

Martin was forced to walk away from the game after suffering bleeding on the brain in 2019, before being cleared to return last year for Brisbane.

He shifted to the Warriors this season only to have his year ruined by a broken fibula in round six against Newcastle.

Sidelined until a fortnight ago, Martin forced his way back into the side for the injured Luke Metcalf for Saturday afternoon's qualifying final.

And Penrith players could not be happier.

"I remember him here, it was a while ago now, but just a really good bloke, really good team man," co-captain Isaah Yeo said. 

"He's obviously faced a lot more adversity than what most footballers ever would. He's really ridden the rollercoaster there obviously having to retire and he's come back.

"And even this season he's had to fight some some adversity as well. But it just shows the character of the person, I think.

"To push through that, overcome those obstacles and now be setting up for a finals appearance, I'm super stoked for him."

Martin will take on extra responsibility in the Warriors' halves on Saturday, with Shaun Johnson's calf injury leaving Dylan Walker at five-eighth.

The 27-year-old will now be expected to be the club's chief organiser, despite playing only one NRL game since April.

A win will be crucial for the Warriors because it would give them a home preliminary final and an extra week off for Johnson's calf to heal.

But for Panthers players who reached out to Martin, they're just happy to see him back in Penrith for the first time since June 2017.

"Far out, it's pretty surreal," fellow Kiwi Fisher-Harris said. 

"I'm so happy for him to be honest. Everything that happened to him, he was such a good mate. He's the man.

"I just sent him a few messages and just been watching him from afar."