Esan Marsters is an Auckland-born forward who currently plays in the Intrust Super Premiership [NSW Cup] for the Wests Tigers.
At just 19 he is already grabbing plenty of attention for his ability on the field, and for good reason. Last year in the Holden Cup U-20 competition Marsters scored 14 tries in 21 games and ran for 2008 metres.
Before being promoted to the Intrust Super Premiership this year, he had eight tries in 10 U-20 appearances, and had made a team-high 11 line breaks.
In the following Q&A Marsters speaks candidly to kiwileaguecentral.com about his future, media attention and international eligibility. (Main photo: Esan Marsters on the charge for the Junior Kiwis this year. Credit: photosport.nz).
KLC: Thanks for joining us Esan. It seems you have progressed really well in your footy so far this year, how is it all going from your point of view?
EM: This is my first year in Cup [the Intrust Super Premiership], I made my debut earlier this year after playing U-20s at the start of the year. The physical side is a bit hard, but with the speed in the 20s, that is harder, so it’s the contact with these big boys [that’s the difference].
But it gets you ready for the NRL. It is good playing with these boys, there are a few clowns in the Wests Tigers team.
You are only 19, but have already played an international for the Cook Islands, what was that experience like?
It was a massive experience for me, especially coming straight out of my first year in the U-20s. It topped it all off. We played Tonga at Campbelltown Stadium, so it was home for me at least!
And how about getting selected for the Junior Kiwis this year?
Oh man, that was probably the biggest achievement for me. It was one of my biggest goals for the year to make the Junior Kiwis. I was pretty excited by it and when I found out I was just overwhelmed, I had been thinking about it all year.
It was a good experience being around the best players in New Zealand and to be recognised as one of the best players for your age in New Zealand was pretty cool.
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) May 3, 2016
Tell us a bit about where you grew up in New Zealand and where you played your junior footy.
I sort of moved around everywhere when I was younger. I was brought up in Glen Innes and then I ended up at Blockhouse Bay, so Blockhouse Bay was pretty much home until I moved over to Australia.
I played for Ellerslie first and spent a season there, then I went to Bay Roskill and eventually ended up at Mt Albert because all my mates were there. I enjoyed playing at Mt Albert, it’s a good club.
I think U-16s was my last year in New Zealand with Mt Albert. I made the move to Australia after that and it’s been good.
You only linked up with the Wests Tigers recently, so what was the initial situation that took you over to Australia?
I moved over first by myself, just trying to crack an opportunity, playing at the Sydney Roosters in SG Ball [U-18s]. But I was in their wider squad and I didn’t get picked.
My mum and that followed me after that and started a new life in Australia. We have been in Aus for three years now and it’s going really well.
Your name has been mentioned in the media a lot lately, with Fox Sports labelling you the most in-demand player yet to make his NRL debut. What has that been like for you?
It is pretty weird because growing up through the junior systems I didn’t think I would be talked up so much in the media and stuff, so I didn’t really know what to expect when they started saying all that stuff.
But I know I have just got to work hard and hopefully get a crack soon in the NRL. That’s the main goal. Hopefully I can have a good year for the Tigers and see where it goes.
It must be really hard to avoid it getting into your head when you are sitting watching TV and suddenly you are being talked about on NRL360…
It is pretty overwhelming, just to get named on TV and stuff with lots of other great players, but it just comes with it and you have to try and not get a big head or anything. I just want to work, that’s it.
Rumours suggest at least five clubs are chasing your signature, what is your main priority right now? The right place for your family? Opportunities to play NRL as soon as possible?
My first priority will always be my family, they are on the journey with me and have been there since the start. They will always come first to me. Hopefully something with one of the clubs can fall into place.
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) May 22, 2016
And in terms of international eligibility – even though you have played for the Junior Kiwis – have there been any approaches from other representative sides?
Na, from the start my mind was always just to make the Junior Kiwis, it was always my goal. I never looked at playing for another country or state, even though I would like to play for NSW!
But I was just proud to make the Junior Kiwi side and hopefully I get to play for the top side as well [one day].
And finally, when you look around the NRL right now who is the player you sort of base yourself on or want to emulate?
There are a few guys I look up to. I sort of like the way Bryce Cartwright plays, he is a skillful player, the way he moves with the ball and how he handles it, he looks pretty good with it.
I sort of like to base my game around him. I would like to get a bit faster, but hopefully that all falls into place around the end of the year.