After getting off to a slow start last year due to a disruptive pre-season, Panthers lock Trent Merrin is looking fit and trim heading into next week’s blockbuster clash against Parramatta.
Following another gruelling summer pre-season, Merrin is feeling lighter and more energised, ready to rip into his 10th season in the NRL.
“It’s been a real tough pre-season, I’ve shed about six kilos,” Merrin revealed to the Weekender.
“It’s something I tried to get on top of last year but I missed much of the pre-season with a calf injury and missed a few trials.”
The 28-year-old said not having a proper pre-season last year was detrimental to the way he started 2017.
“It took me a while to get back into shape,” Merrin said.
“This year, I’ve been at pre-season from the get-go. I’ve dropped six kilos and trained really hard as has the rest of the team. We are all in a great position to start the season off strong.”
Ever since Merrin arrived at Penrith in 2016, his goal has always been to win a title at his second club.
After helping guide St George Illawarra to premiership glory in 2010, Merrin is confident good times aren’t far away at the foot of the Mountains.
“I always have and always will have belief that we’ll get there eventually,” he said.
“That’s always been our goal to get to the big game at the end of the year. It’s just about what we do between now and then.”
For a while, many pundits have excused Penrith for not winning a premiership in recent years due to the high number of young players in the side.
While the club is still made up of plenty of youth, Merrin said the “Penrith’s too young to win a comp” excuse can no longer be used.
“When you look at the ages in the team, there’s a few 21-year-olds there but they’ve got years of NRL experience under their belts,” he said.
“They are more mature now in the footy sense than their age sense.
“I’m very excited about the maturity of the players in our club and I believe they are capable of big things in the future.”
One youngster who Merrin has high hopes for is young forward Jack Hetherington. Merrin believes a first grade debut for the talented second rower isn’t far away.
“Hetherington’s a first grader, he just needs to get the games under his belt,” he said.
“He’s got the passion, he’s got the heart, he’s got the aggression too.
“We just need to nurture him a little bit, but he’ll get a taste of first grade this season.”
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.