RHYSE Martin believes taking on someone like John Bateman proves Super League deserves more respect in Australia.
It may even convince his friends Down Under that it can be on a par.
The Wigan star came back to England after dominating NRL defences in a stellar stint with Canberra Raiders.
But Bateman has been joined by other big names who have boosted the quality here in the past couple of years – to the point Leeds ace Martin believes any gap in standard is negligible.
He said: “This competition deserves a bit more respect from the NRL.
“A lot of the players in Super League could really compete there. It’s getting to the point where there’s very little difference between the two.
“It’s great for the game to have someone like John back. He’s such a good player and it’s great to have players at his level playing in the league.
“We’ve seen a number of players coming over here who can play there and a number who have played here move over and go straight in.
“My mates Down Under are probably all biased but watch the NRL and there are more players in that who moved from Super League.
“I wouldn’t say they get as much respect as they should but for me, Super League is definitely getting closer.
“And you’ll see a lot more players moving. NRL clubs are now targeting UK juniors and bringing them through their systems, which shows the level of players over here.”
Back rower Martin, who may fill in again at half-back given Leeds’ lengthy injury list, knows whatever he does, he will always be in the bad books.
Not for anything he has done on the field, or even anything bad off it.
The impending birth of his first child means fiancée Vanessa Maiolo has had to be turfed out of the office to make way for the nursery.
Papua New Guinea ace Martin added: “I’m in the bad books. Vanessa’s not finished work yet and there are too many distractions downstairs.
“The little one’s due on June 19, so we’re trying to get everything sorted and in place.
“We’re going to wait until it’s born to find out what sex it is. I always wanted a boy as I grew up with all brothers but as long as the baby is healthy, I can live with a girl.
“And I’m doing everything in neutral colours at the moment – greys, whites, that kind of thing – with a few yellow things.”
Tonight sees Kyle Eastmond return to rugby league following 10 years away in rugby union, in which he became a dual-code England international.
But boss Richard Agar believes the 31-year-old can make an impact, even if the pressure is off.
He said: "I think he'll help us in an area we struggled last week, we really struggled in our last tackle plays.
"I'll tell him, 'Feel your way back in.'
"Clearly there's going to be a lot of eyeballs and expectation on him but we're very relaxed and understanding of where he's at at this moment in time."
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