THE way Tony Martin sees it, he owes the Gladstone Wallabys a lot.
He played for Wallabys juniors and worked his way up to A-grade before becoming a professional league player.
"They gave me my start," Tony said.
"Anything I can give back is never going to equal that."
Living in Gladstone once again, Tony said although he could not take on an official role with Wallabys such as coaching or playing, he would be involved wherever he could.
"I'll get down to training most weeks to help with mentoring young blokes.
"I'll be around whenever I can."
Tony was four when he decided he wanted to play rugby league.
His six-year-old brother was already playing.
"I just loved it. I used to sleep with a rugby league ball."
He worked his way through the ranks at the club where he played under-17s, U19s and A-grade when he was 17.
"I always played for Wallabys.
"That was always my club."
Now he is meeting new Wallabys players and A-grade players he last knew as kids playing in the junior competition.
"It's nice to see they have come right through the club and to meet all the new players.
"It's nice for me to go down and get reunited with the club."
Despite a number of clubs signing big names this season, he said Wallabys had stuck to its roots.
"The big focus at Wallabys has always been the local lads."
And he was looking forward to being involved with the club to help those young players through their rugby league journeys.
How he started: Tony Martin went from Gladstone to London
FROM a young fan sleeping with his footy to an NRL star, Tony Martin has always loved rugby league.
"I was always passionate about rugby league," Tony said.
"I guess it made it easier to train and make the sacrifices I had to make to make it into a career."
His first taste of professional rugby league came with a scholarship to London from the Brisbane Broncos in 1996.
Super League was in its first year and the London Broncos was looking for fresh talent.
"I was one of seven Queensland kids asked to go to London."
At just 17, Tony said it was a big step to move from Gladstone to London, especially it being his first time living out of home.
"It was as much a life experience as a football one.
"There was a lot of lessons learnt."
Finally playing league for a living, Tony said there was a lot to love about his career choice.
He played first grade for a year and a half when, at the end of 1997, Melbourne Storm called.
The club was just starting in the NRL.
He had to choose between staying with the Broncos or moving to Melbourne.
"For me I thought I'd been playing first grade for a year and a half ... it would be a better opportunity to go to Melbourne.
"It worked out pretty good."
Tony said he would have loved to have played State of Origin but he was lucky to be a part of Storm's 1999 NRL premiership win.
Although he scored a try, Tony was modest about his role.
"I was in the right place at the right time."
He doesn't remember a lot from the grand final which he said was a very emotional day for a young man.
"I remember what I felt and how I felt."
He also played in the NRL for New Zealand Warriors but remains a Melbourne Storm fan.
AT home in Gladstone once again, Tony Martin feels "comfortable".
Sitting in his backyard, he isn't an NRL star.
He is eight-year-old Tana's dad and Mel's husband.
And that's just the way he likes it.
Tony said he was grateful for his professional rugby league career but was also happy to move on.
"I'm a lot more comfortable back here around friends and family," Tony said.
Now his weekends are free to spend with Mel and Tana kicking a ball around the park, and not always a rugby league ball.
He said although Tana was a "handy" rugby league player and had signed with Wallabys for the season he was also a talented football player.
"I always said I'd be happier for him to play football (soccer) because then he'll never have the comparisons to me.
"At the end of the day he plays what he wants to play."
Tana had always known dad was a big deal in the rugby league world but Tony said it didn't faze him.
"For him it's all he's ever known."
Tony said he loved to be on the sidelines at Tana's games.
"I get more enjoyment out of watching him play then playing myself.
"That's when you start thinking maybe it's time to retire."
Knowing that his career in rugby league would not last forever, Tony set himself up for a range of career opportunities.
As well as being a qualified stock broker Tony said he was finishing a degree in financial planning and was also two years away from completing his electrician apprenticeship.
"Outside of that I spend all of my time with Mel and Tana.
"We are a normal family again and doing normal family things," he said.