While it appears Reagan Campbell-Gillard is a sure thing for a maiden State of Origin jumper, his fellow front-row partner Trent Merrin is also pushing his claim for a Blues recall.
The pair spoke at length on Monday afternoon about their desire to be in Brad Fittler’s Blues team for Origin I in Melbourne.
Merrin hasn’t represented the Blues since arriving at Penrith in 2016, while Campbell-Gillard represented Australia at the recent World Cup but still hasn’t played for his state.
After a strong start to the season, 28-year-old Merrin said he would “love” to be considered by Fittler.
“I’d love to play Origin again, I’ve worked really hard but it all starts with club footy though. You have to do the best you can there to put yourself in a good position,” he said.
“I’ll definitely put my hand up for it, it’s something I want to get back into and be part of again.”
Since switching from lock to prop, Merrin has taken his game to another level – something fans had been hoping to see more of during his time at Penrith.
Merrin credits his move to the front-row this season for getting his career back on track.
“I 100 per cent think that’s the reason. It’s been a great move to be honest, the circle of life,” he said.
“I started my career at prop and now I’m back there again. I love it. Me and Reg are working really hard to get the boys on the front foot and it’s been working really well these last few weeks.”
His teammate and next door neighbour, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, believes Merrin deserves his shot at Origin again, dubbing him the “forgotten man”.
“I thought that was one of his quality games last week against the Knights, that’s the type of player I know Mez is. He ran for nearly 100 metres in the first half – I feed off things like that,” he said.
“He probably is the forgotten man in that area. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Discussing his own Origin chances, Campbell-Gillard said he isn’t distracted by seeing his name in mock Blues sides.
“I get it each week from the media throwing my name out there, saying I’m in the mix and that sort of stuff. I try to brush it off and not think about it,” he said.
“I think if you start looking at it, your form can go out the door – you just have to block it out.
“Yes playing Origin has crossed my mind, I won’t lie about that [but] it’s football, it’s media and that’s what comes with playing in the NRL. You’ve got to cope with things like that and try not to let it distract you.”
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.