Leeds Rhinos: Marquee man Trent Merrin eyes lasting Leeds legacy

STAR SIGNING Trent Merrin admits he has had an early ‘kick up the backside’ – and reckons he will be better for it when Leeds Rhinos begin their Betfred Super League campaign at Warrington Wolves this evening.

By Peter Smith
Saturday, 2nd February 2019, 5:20 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 4:03 pm
Trent Merrin.
Trent Merrin.

Merrin has ‘done it all’ in Australia, having won a Grand Final with St George-Illawarra Dragons nine years ago, played 13 times in State of Origin for New South Wales and earned seven Kangaroos caps from 2015 to 2017.

However, for various reasons, not every import is a success, whatever they may have achieved back home.

At some stage most clubs, Rhinos included, have had bad experiences with players who have come over from Australia expecting an easy time.

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Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

But pack man Merrin is determined not to be in that category and has no illusions about the tests he will face over the next four seasons.

“It showed in the trial against Castleford,” the forward said of Rhinos’ defeat in Kallum Watkins’ testimonial match two weeks ago which was his first experience of the European game.

“I was off the pace.

“I expected it to be totally different to what it was.

Kallum Watkins.

“It has given me a bit of a kick in the backside and made me work harder and to have a different frame of mind.”

Merrin faces having to adapt to new conditions as well as a different style of rugby in Super League and knows the going will get tougher now the real business is beginning.

“That’s credit to the Super League and the quality clubs they have over here too,” he added. “You have got to be on your game, there’s no light games over here.

“Every club is passionate, they all want the end result.

“It is exciting, I enjoyed it a lot the other week and I can’t wait for round one.”

At 29 Merrin could have stayed in the NRL, but the opportunity to help Rhinos rebuild after their disastrous campaign last year – as one of their first marquee recruits – tempted him away from Penrith Panthers and the Australian competition.

“It’s a new challenge, on and off the field,” Merrin said.

“I think I needed a break away.

“Obviously back home there’s a new crop of young players coming through and you’ve got to look at other options when you get to later on in your career.

“I am lucky enough to be able to come over here when I’ve still got some footy left under my belt.

“Away from the field I wanted to grow as a person, to step out of my comfort zone and test my character in the unknown.

“To grow as an individual is something I love to do.

“As well as on the field, it excited me off the field to come over here.

“On the field it is a massive challenge. I know how passionate the Leeds Rhinos fans are and the club is. As a unit and as a club we want to get back to those glory days when they were going back-to-back and had a lot of success.

“We are all looking forward to it and it’s something we all want to be part of.”

Merrin has joined a Rhinos team in transition under new coach Dave Furner who will be in charge for the first time in a competitive game today.

He is one of four new signings in the squad for the game at HJ Stadium – alongside Konrad Hurrell, Tui Lolohea and James Donaldson – and only nine of Rhinos’ initial 19 featured in the final match of last season when Leeds lost at home to Toronto Wolfpack in the end-of-season Qualifiers.

Merrin has been brought in for his leadership and experience and insisted: “It is a challenge, but it is exciting.

“You play for blokes like Jonesy [Jamie Jones-Buchanan who is beginning the final season of his playing career] and Kallum [Watkins] and blokes who have been here for the success.

“And you want to educate the younger players and let them see how good it is when you’re in a winning culture. Obviously I have done it all back home and I want to bring my experience and educate the young players we have here.

“There’s talent everywhere across the park and they want to learn and grow and educate themselves and be the best they possibly can be, to be the next Jonesy and the next Kallum Watkins.

“I want them to aspire to be the next Trent Merrin too!

“It is something I am excited to be among and I want to set a new legacy at the club.”