Selfless Merrin wins over Panthers faithful
Penrith Panthers lock Trent Merrin has quickly become a fan-favourite at the foot of the mountains.
Just as well too, because the 26-year-old is quick to confess the club means a whole lot to him.
Merrin is often the first Panther to put his hand up when it comes to lending a hand with community work around Western Sydney; his latest tale of generosity sure to come as no surprise to those close to him.
In the immediate aftermath of the Penrith's 38-18 win over the Roosters, Merrin was unable to fulfil a request of a Panthers fan with special needs who asked for a football.
Instead Merrin handed over his jersey to the ecstatic fan, with it revealed later on social media that the man's mother had recently passed away.
Merrin's kindness quickly spread online, to the delight of many rugby league circles.
"It was pretty special to give something back to one of the fans," Merrin told NRL.com on Tuesday morning.
"You wouldn't be able to play the game that we love without the supporters coming out and cheering us on every weekend, especially on a Monday night. It's a work night and a tough thing to do."
Merrin reaffirmed his love for the Panthers – after playing just 17 games – a fortnight ago by signing a contract extension which will keep him at the club until the end of the 2020 season.
"The Panthers are a very special club," Merrin said.
"When we get amongst the local schools and community you can see the passion on the faces and how much they actually love the club.
"It's a working class area and it's exactly what we do week-in, week-out.
"It means a lot to me, to be at such a proud club. Whatever I can do to give back, I'll do."
What proved to be a special night for one Panthers fan was also an important one for Penrith's top-eight fortunes.
The Panthers' 20-point win allowed them to overtake the Titans, Wests Tigers and Warriors into seventh on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder.
"It was a must-win for us. The first half was definitely tough, the Roosters really stuck it to us," Merrin said.
"It was a great effort from the boys though, we ripped in hard and they're the sort of results we're capable of achieving. It's just about putting in the effort on a weekly basis.
"We can't be complacent, we have to prepare the way we have been and treat it like another tough game," Merrin added, referring to the Panthers' upcoming clash in Newcastle.
"It will be tough so nothing should change for us in preparation this week."