Zinzaan's unique odyssey
Three tries in his A Grade debut has announced Zimbabwean heritage player Zinzaan Martin as a figure to watch in the Townsville and Districts Rugby League.
Martin, who relocated from New Zealand at the beginning of this season, helped Western Lions to a comfortable 40-18 defeat of the Norths Devils.
The 17-year-old is now in the third year of a scholarship with the North Queensland Cowboys and carries the name of former All Blacks rugby legend Zinzan Brooke.
“Yeah Zinzan Brooke was my father’s favourite player, but my parents decided to put a little spin on my name by adding an extra letter ‘a’,” says Martin, who goes by the the nickname ‘Zee’.
“Funnily enough, Dad is a rugby league man through and through.”
Martin was identified by the Cowboys while competing in a schoolboys tournament in New Zealand, where he attended St Thomas of Canterbury College in Christchurch.
His family’s history has weaved an interesting path across the seas, with his parents migrating to New Zealand from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has undergone significant economic and political upheaval over recent decades.
“My parents thought it would secure their future and provide a better life if they moved to New Zealand,” says Martin.
“Everyone gives me a strange look when I say my family background is from Zimbabwe, I guess because they’re not expecting it.
“I’m interested to go to Zimbabwe one day and I still talk to family back there, but I was born and raised in New Zealand and that’s all I’ve kind of known until this point.”
Martin has an ability to play across the backline and says he is “still not sure” where his best position is, having been selected at fullback and centre in Townsville’s Mal Meninga Cup side.
He was omitted from Townsville’s most recent game, a 28-16 loss to the Sunshine Coast, allowing Western Lions to select him for the local league competition.
Martin insists he didn’t take the field with a point to prove and gave thanks to teammates for his hat-trick on debut.
“The Blackhawks didn’t pick me because they wanted to look at some new combinations…the team has not been going too well,” he says.
“But I wouldn’t say it prompted me. I go out every game and try to show what I can do.
“Full credit to the team, because the first try was set up for me and the other two were mainly through support play.
“I’m here in Australia to learn as much as I can. Coming from New Zealand, it’s not the same development system there and I think the Aussie way brings a lot more progression.”
Playing on Martin’s Western Lions side was former NRL player Wayne Ulugia, while another former Cowboys player, Ricky Thorby, was on the Norths Devils team.
In other results from the TDRL, Herbert River beat Centrals 34-18, while Brothers accounted for Charters Towers 48-14.