On the eve of his second year with the Panthers, Kangaroos lock Trent Merrin says he’s feeling rather apprehensive heading into the opening round of the season.
For the first time in his decorated career, the 27-year-old will enter an NRL campaign without playing a single pre-season trial.
After participating in last year’s Four Nations tournament along with a nice holiday in Hawaii, Merrin only resumed training with his teammates in January.
With his conditioning not quite where it needs to be, Merrin along with Penrith’s coaching staff decided to leave the 158-game veteran on the sidelines for its entire pre-season.
Speaking with the Weekender, Merrin said his absence from Penrith’s trials against Parramatta and Canterbury was simply precautionary.
“Everything is fine, I’m just getting the body right and there’s a few little things I need to keep working on,” he said.
“The boys have had a few more weeks under their belts with pre-season, so the training staff think it’ll be better for me to have a few more training sessions than actually playing.”
While Merrin said he wants to be 100 per cent fit before he takes on his former team next Saturday afternoon at Kogarah, he is anxious at the fact he’ll go into the game without at least one pre-season hit out.
“It’s the first time I’ve gone into a season without playing a trial, it’s a great test for myself,” he said.
“There’s certainly some nerves there but it’s a good test mentally to get my head around and work hard over these next two weeks to put myself in a great position for Round 1.”
The 2010 Dragons premiership winner was Penrith’s star recruit heading into last year’s successful season, but this year it’s another premiership winner in Cowboys recruit James Tamou who everyone has their eyes on.
Merrin believes the NSW Origin prop has done wonders for Penrith’s young forward pack this pre-season and could be that final piece of the premiership puzzle.
“The boys look up to Jimmy (Tamou) a lot especially the middle boys,” he said.
“Just the credentials he’s brought to the club is good experience for our younger forwards, like Leilani Latu and Reagan Campbell-Gillard, to learn and grow.
“Jimmy is definitely a big player for our team, it’s a great step forward for the club and I can’t wait to play alongside him.”
One player Merrin wants Penrith fans to keep their eye on in 2017 is Moses Leota.
After being named in the Auckland Nines Team of the Tournament earlier this month, Merrin believes the young prop’s star is well and truly on the rise.
“Moses has been the stand out for me, I’m expecting big things for him,” he said.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.