Leeds Rhinos boss Richard Agar provides update on Trent Merrin situation
Leeds Rhinos will allow their captain Trent Merrin to leave if he secures a deal at a club in his native Australia, coach Richard Agar has confirmed.
As revealed by yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk on Monday, Rhinos have given Merrin - who has three years left on his Leeds contract - permission to speak to clubs in the NRL on compassionate grounds.
Speaking about the situation for the first time, Agar stressed there is still a chance Merrin could return to Leeds, but said his family has to come first.
“We have a strong relationship with Trent,” Agar said.
“I think everybody’s aware that, maybe a third of the way through the season, he had to go back to Australia for a very personal family tragedy.
“That has created for him, at times, a need to be a little bit closer to home.
“Since I came in as coach and he became captain we have built up a terrific relationship.
“His performances on the field were outstanding for us in a really tough situation, but with some of those family issues he has, we have given him an opportunity to have a look and see if he can sort any deal out that suits him, to be a bit closer to home."
Agar said Rhinos are preparing for life with and without Merrin next year.
“We have got constant dialogue with him about where it’s all at," he stated.
"We have put a bit of a timescale on it, that if he does source a deal we need to be across it.
“There is a line in the sand where we both agree that, once he’s had a look, if it’s not right then he will come back."
Agar insisted it is not a case of Merrin wanting to leave.
“There’s a strong part of him that wants to come back, but sometimes there are some overriding family situations that are far more important than rugby league," he stressed.
“We have been very sympathetic to that and we are also very confident that if he does come back he will be a strong player and a leader for us and if not and he does get something that means he can stay at home, he will do it with our full support.
“There’s no sinister, underlying motives to this, we have very open and honest lines of communication on this and we totally understand [his situation].”
Cronulla Sharks forward Matt Prior has been identified as a possible replacement for Merrin.
Agar confirmed he met with coaches and agents during a recent trip to Australia and Rhinos have "got in front of a couple of players" in case Merrin does not return.