Having lost his treasured sky blue jersey for Game Three of last year’s State of Origin Series after playing in the two previous clashes, St George Illawarra prop Trent Merrin says he will be out to impress against Brisbane’s representative forward pack this Friday night in a bid to win a recall to Ricky Stuart’s side in 2012.
The 22-year-old has been a mainstay for the Dragons this season, contributing an average 134 metres and 32 tackles from the bench in a standout start to the year.
Yet Merrin told NRL.com that his motivations are simple and pointed to this weekend’s clash with fellow premiership contenders Brisbane as the perfect opportunity to send a message to NSW selectors.
“They’re a big pack and they’re a representative pack,” Merrin said of a Broncos squad boasting Queensland stalwarts Petero Civoniceva, Ben Hannant and Sam Thaiday.
“I think when you test yourself you want to test yourself against the best. That’s what they will provide on Friday night. They’re always a tough game, Brisbane, especially up there.
“It’s always physical and a real test through the middle but I’m looking forward to it.”
Merrin admits to being frustrated by his absence from the third and deciding Origin game last season after taking part in the Blues’ inspirational performance in Game Two but believes the disappointment may well prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Certainly it has been a key factor in his lightning start to 2012.
“It gives you a bit of an edge,” he said. “Once you’ve had a taste of Origin you want it even more.
“It (being dropped) was a bit of a downer… but in saying that I didn’t think I was a chance of wearing a sky blue jersey – especially in my second year of first grade. To achieve that so early in my career was a dream come true.
“I mean, it was disappointing – I can’t say that it wasn’t – but I think that gave me more of an edge to work harder to make it again. It puts more fire in the tank to keep going.”
Merrin isn’t backwards in coming forward when discussing his personal goals. Not one to rest on his laurels, he has achieved in 55 first grade games what many players fail to in an entire career, with a premiership in 2010 and debuts for both NSW and Country Origin last season – yet Merrin hasn’t come close to fulfilling his ambitions.
“My main thing is to become the best player that I can,” he said. “That’s been my main goal since I started playing the game – to keep testing myself, to set new goals each year and then try and achieve them.
“I think any player that does that is going to go places so I want to keep testing myself and see where my boundaries are.”
Asked about his plans for this season, Merrin replied: “To be a dominant player within the team. I want to try and mature with the game and express myself a bit more on the field as I get older and more mature with the boys.
“It’s good for me to have blokes like Dean Young and Nathan Fien coming off the bench with me – experienced representative players. I like to watch them and take a bit of what they do into my game. So I’m definitely trying to step up a bit more and I’m pretty happy with how it’s been going.
“I think that’s what every player’s goal is – to try and get some good consistency behind them at the start of the year to take them into the rest of the season. That was one of my main goals this year, to try and get some good form going and keep building on it throughout the season.”
The Dragons have surprised many this season with just how smooth their transition into the post Wayne Bennett era has been. A hiccup against Canterbury in Round 2 raised plenty of questions about such an un-Dragons like performance but Merrin said the playing group have always remained confident in the direction new coach Steve Price has taken them.
“I think when Wayne was here, he set the systems up for us and it was all working well. Pricey knew that and he knew he didn’t have to change what was working for us,” he said. “He has put his own little spin on a few things that he wanted to, but other than that nothing has changed. We’re all sticking to the same resume.
“Everyone knows their job and their role. It wouldn’t have been too good if it got too good and we had to change everything, but it’s been quite simple so far.”