Griffin thankful for Merrin's Origin snub
Coach Anthony Griffin says the Panthers will be the major beneficiaries of Trent Merrin's State of Origin snub after the former Blues representative played a starring role in Penrith's 31-12 defeat of the Broncos on Friday night.
Playing his 150th NRL game, Merrin capped a superb performance in which he ran for 227 metres, made 34 tackles to go with four tackle busts, two offloads and scored the game's final try in the last minute of play.
Surrounded by teammates barely out of their teens, Merrin's experience in the representative arena where he has played 13 Origins for New South Wales and a sole Test for Australia is crucial to Penrith's finals aspirations.
As Blues coach Laurie Daley ushered in the next generation of Origin players this season Merrin was one of the senior players forced to make way, with Griffin delighted to have had the 26-year-old's services during the Origin period.
"I would have thought he would have been great for NSW at some stage this year but we've received the benefit of that over the last six weeks," Griffin said.
"He played 80 minutes tonight and he's just a really great team man. That's why he keeps finding that bit extra.
"He's got great late feet at the line against tired defence, he's very selective with his offload and he keeps coming defensively."
Admitting to NRL.com his disappointment at not being part of an Origin series for the first time since 2010, Merrin said that he turned his focus to the Panthers and what he needs to work on to earn a representative jersey in future.
"You get gutted by it but you move on," Merrin said.
"You learn from it, you work hard and you don't worry about it now.
"My job is just to work hard and play well for the Panthers. What accolades come off the back of that you take and run with them but it wasn't meant to be this year.
"It's not something that's going to weigh me down. I'm just going to learn from it, work harder and there's always a future."
Broncos forward Sam Thaiday was very much a member of Queensland's Origin campaign in 2016 and said his former Broncos coach was fortunate to have a player of Merrin's quality at his disposal.
"He played out of his skin tonight," Thaiday said.
"To play 150 games is a great milestone for him and he even scored a try.
"He's a great player and a great signing for Penrith. 'Hook' (Griffin) is very lucky to have Merrin in his team."
Previous milestone games at the Dragons had not been kind to Merrin but the Panthers ensured it would be a fond memory with a dominant display across the entire 80 minutes.
They dominated the first half against a Broncos team that had won five of the previous six meetings between the two teams at Suncorp Stadium and gave Merrin cause for celebration as he scored on full-time.
"They haven't but every game's different and you don't know what to expect when you go out there," Merrin said of his losing record in games No.50 and 100.
"It was definitely great to get away with the win like we did tonight.
"It was something that we'd been building to the last few weeks and I feel very confident that we executed it very well tonight."
Griffin credited the fightback against the Eels last week, where the Panthers turned an 18-6 deficit at half-time into a 22-18 win, for the energy and execution that they displayed against the Broncos.
Halves Nathan Cleary and Bryce Cartwright combined superbly with fullback Matt Moylan in particular and Leilani Latu combined brute force with deft touch for two try assists in a performance that lifted the team back into the top eight.
"I thought the back-end of the game last week that we fought really hard to win that game even though we didn't get our execution right at times," Griffin said.
"They were in a good mood all week. We lost our way a couple of weeks ago obviously – as you do in a long season – but last week we got our energy back and a lot better execution tonight."