New, Mellow Merritt: ‘I don’t feel any pressure to impress’

HE has scored a whopping 64 tries in the past four seasons and has finally earned a representative call-up in Saturday’s Indigenous All Stars side, but South Sydney flyer Nathan Merritt has quickly quashed talk of a State of Origin debut in 2010.<br><br>Once a vocal critic of NSW selectors, Merritt tells NRL.com he is no longer concerned with donning a sky blue jersey; instead he’s treating this week’s game as his opportunity to shine.<br><br>“I don’t worry about any of that State of Origin stuff anymore,” the 26-year-old said.<br>“I mean, I would still love to be picked but it’s not something I waste time worrying about.<br><br>“Those days are behind me.<br><br>“The main thing for me is turning up each week and playing my best football for the Rabbitohs.”<br><br>Asked about playing against an NRL All Stars side boasting 18 internationals, Merritt said: “I guess if I do well the selectors might sit up and take notice but that’s not what it’s about for me.<br><br>“I don’t see it as my State of Origin, or anything like that. It’s more about going out there and representing my people and my family the best I can against the best players in the world.<br><br>“If I can do that I’ll be happy.”<br><br>Still, there is no doubt that Saturday’s match presents a huge opportunity for Merritt to show his wares.<br><br>Certainly his strike-rate is impressive – only Manly fullback Brett Stewart (68) has scored more tries over the four seasons – and he can make a statement should he get the job done marking up against NRL All Stars giant Israel Folau.<br><br>“He looks about seven feet tall,” said Merritt, who remains the only player to ever top the NRL tryscorers list while playing for the wooden-spooners, after crossing 22 times for Souths in 2006.<br><br>“I think the main thing for us will be trying to contain them and if we can do that we’ll go a long way to winning.<br><br>“I’m sure there will be plenty of bombs coming my way but that doesn’t bother me.<br>“Hopefully when the ball comes my way I can cause them a few problems as well. But all I can do is my best.”<br><br>Either way, Merritt said he would remember Saturday’s clash for the rest of his life after finally having the opportunity to play alongside the likes of fellow Indigenous representatives Preston Campbell, Scott Prince, Johnathan Thurston and Wendell Sailor.<br><br>“It’s something I’ve always wanted to see happen but never thought it actually would,” he said. “It will be a special night for all of us.<br><br>“I’ve been thinking about it for months now and just to be in camp with the boys this week has been amazing.<br><br>“It’s important that we have the chance to do this, to bring our people together.”<br>And Merritt predicted a big year in 2010 with all eyes on a revamped South Sydney club boasting a new coach in veteran John Lang and arguably the NRL’s most fearsome forward pack.<br><br>Having narrowly missed the finals last season, the Rabbitohs have been active in the player market, with Great Britain forward Sam Burgess, Brisbane giant Dave Taylor and former Queensland prop Ben Ross – who is recovering from a serious neck injury – all now wearing the red and green.<br><br>“We’ve made some changes and there is a great feeling around the place,” Merritt said.<br><br>“We all feel like we under-achieved last season but with the new guys that have come in I think we can go a long way this year.<br><br>“I can’t wait for it all to get started.” <br><br>