Trent Merrin has played his last game for the Penrith Panthers.
The former Origin and Test forward still has two years to run on his lucrative contract but has been granted a release to head overseas to continue his career with Leeds in the English Super League.
Speculation about Merrin’s future had intensified over the last month but last week Panthers General Manager Phil Gould declared the 29-year-old was staying at Penrith.
Now, there’s been a fresh twist with Merrin to leave the Panthers immediately.
“This is hugely significant for not just Leeds Rhinos but the Super League competition and shows the ambition of our club to compete at the very top of the game,” said Leeds CEO Gary Hetherington.
“Trent was Dave Furner’s number one target and it has come as a major boost to have secured a player of his quality on a long-term contract.”
Gould praised Merrin for his time at the Panthers.
“Trent Merrin has given our club three years of outstanding service, both on and off the field,” he said.
“Panthers played finals football in each of the three seasons he spent at the club. Apart from the tremendous football he has played, Trent has been instrumental in mentoring the careers of a number of our young players.
“We wish Trent well with his new challenge in the English Super League. Leeds has secured itself a very good man.”
Merrin played 72 games for the Panthers and won the Merv Cartwright Medal as the club’s player of the year in 2016.
OFFICIAL. Trent Merrin will be granted a release to take up a lucrative four-year deal at Leeds Rhinos in 2019.
— Penrith Panthers (@PenrithPanthers) November 15, 2018
Merrin, who had also been linked to other NRL clubs including Newcastle in recent months, said he was looking forward to playing overseas.
“I have done everything I possibly could in the NRL and this is a great opportunity for me to come to a great club with a fantastic culture and hopefully achieve some goals together,” he said.
“It is good to have clarity about my future, I am looking forward to coming to a new country, stepping outside of my comfort zone and being part of something special with Leeds.
“There is a lot I still want to achieve. I want to put my best foot forward and, when I eventually come back home, I want to be able to look back on a special period in my life.
“I have spent time with Dave Furner in camp before and enjoyed the experience. He is obviously well respected at Leeds from his time there as a player and has built an impressive coaching career in the NRL since then.”
It is understood Merrin informed Penrith team mates of his decision this morning.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.