While a spot in the 2017 NRL Finals looks all but secured for the Penrith Panthers, lock Trent Merrin is determined to keep the good times rolling with a win over his former club this Sunday afternoon.
The 27-year-old Australian representative made a triumphant return from a serious knee injury during last weekend’s thrilling 26-22 win over Canberra.
When Merrin went down with a high grade MCL tear during Penrith’s Round 19 win over the New Zealand Warriors, many feared he wouldn’t return at all during the regular season.
However, proving Penrith’s medical staff wrong, Merrin returned earlier than expected to play a starring role in his side’s nail-biting victory over the Raiders.
Speaking with Extra Time on Monday morning, Merrin said he pulled up fine albeit a “bit sore” from the heated encounter in the nation’s capital.
“That’s always the case when you come back a bit early from injury – it’s always going to pull up a bit tender and sore but other than that the knee will be better for it,” he said.
Missing five games during Penrith’s remarkable winning streak, the 2010 Premiership winner said he was determined to do everything he could to defy doctor’s orders and return to the paddock as quick as possible.
“It’s just like life, you set yourself little goals and you work really hard to achieve them,” Merrin said.
“It’s a credit to the medical staff here to put me in a position to get back when I wanted to get back, not when they wanted me back.
“To show that trust in me, to push it the way that we did, it showed belief in me to put myself in that position.”
Merrin will give his knee another huge test this weekend when he comes up against his former club, St George-Illawarra, for the second time this season.
While the novelty of playing his ex-teammates has well and truly worn off over the years, Merrin is looking forward to making amends for Penrith’s awful opening round loss to the Dragons at Kogarah back in March.
“You don’t forget a loss like that. It was a tough game to walk away from and we’ll hold on to a bit of that come Sunday,” Merrin said.
“It’s always great coming up against your old club but our main focus the last few weeks has been us and that’s all we can control.”
Merrin is hoping for a big crowd on Sunday at Pepper Stadium.
“We are really excited for our last home game of the season. We’ve done the best we possibly can to put ourselves in a great position. All we need now is for everyone to get behind us and push us through.”
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.