Merrin plays down homecoming
While the rest of the rugby league world is billing it as a grudge match, Panthers forward Trent Merrin sees Sunday afternoon's match against his former club the Dragons as just another day at the office.
Having played 135 games for the Red V – including the 2010 grand final – Merrin appreciates the significance of this weekend's clash but admits he's not approaching it any differently to how we would any other game.
"It's definitely going to be a little bit emotional on the day," Merrin told NRL.com.
"But in saying that, at the end of the day, it's just another game of rugby league. I'm here to do the best I can for the Panthers and play my role and build on what we've been building the last few weeks.
"All I'm focussing on is playing the best footy I possibly can and building that momentum."
Merrin missed Penrith's last-start win against the Broncos due to a virus, but said he was ready to go against his former club.
"I'm feeling a lot better," the Panthers lock said.
"It really rocked me around over the weekend. I'm slowly building back up and just getting ready for the weekend.
"I had the last two days on the field and now I'm just tiptoeing back into it and getting the body back into a reasonably good state."
Having joined the Panthers in the off-season following seven stellar years with the Dragons, Merrin knows the bulk of the talk leading into this weekend's match will centre on his return to WIN Stadium.
"They're going to do their best to build it up, and that's great, but in my mind, it's just another game of rugby league," the 26-year-old said.
"We've got something special going here with the Panthers and we just need to build that momentum. We just need to focus on us."
Merrin is fully expecting a vocal reception when he runs onto the field for the first time on Sunday afternoon, and will understand if St George-Illawarra fans give it to him.
"I'll cop a bit. There's no doubt about that. They're really passionate fans. I loved the place when I was there and I built a good relationship with everyone," he said.
"They're going to be hurting. They're going to throw it in my face a bit.
"I've got a lot of respect for them. I've got a lot of respect for the club. It's rugby league and the fans are passionate, that's just the way it is."
The ex-Dragon said he was looking forward to coming up against his former teammates, both on and off the field.
"There will be [some banter between players] during the week. It's all fun until the ball has been kicked and we're into it. I've got a lot of great friends at the club and I'm looking forward to it."