Merrin counts his blessings
Panthers and Australian lock Trent Merrin believes being dumped from the New South Wales Origin side was a blessing in disguise.
Blues coach Laurie Daley opted to go without Merrin for the entire State of Origin series this year despite his solid early-season form in his first year at Penrith.
It didn't take long for Merrin to turn a negative into a positive though, using his disappointment as motivation for what turned into a career-best season in the NRL.
As a result, Merrin was picked in Mal Meninga's 24-man Kangaroos squad ahead of retiring Broncos great Corey Parker and premiership-winning Sharks skipper Paul Gallen.
Merrin has since been selected by Meninga in each of Australia's Tests at the Four Nations and is again expected to don the No. 13 jumper against New Zealand in the tournament final at Anfield this weekend.
"[Being overlooked for Origin] was a big blessing. I didn't see it coming at all, though all I can do is thank the Penrith boys for the position I find myself in now," Merrin told NRL.com.
"You do pinch yourself being in this Kangaroos team among this group of men especially after the year I had.
"The whole concept of moving to a different team, stepping out of my comfort zone and getting comfortable in the uncomfortable was new to me.
"But once I settled in and really made it home – and it probably took midway through the season to get a grip of everything – it all came together."
Not only was missing Origin a blessing for Merrin but also the impetus for his huge season at the Panthers, where he quickly become a source of inspiration for younger forwards Isaah Yeo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Leilani Latu.
"You always aspire to be in the Origin and Australian team but when I copped that blow [being overlooked for NSW] I really had to go back to square one. I had to simplify everything and focus on just playing really well for the Panthers," Merrin said.
"That was my main priority as soon as I was overlooked for the Blues. I've only received this accolade off the back of them. I wouldn't be in this position without the Panthers boys and what we did at Penrith this year."
Speaking ahead of Australia's Four Nations final against New Zealand, Merrin is embracing his next challenge – taking on 2016 Dally M medallist Jason Taumalolo.
"I love it. You always want to test yourself against the best and he's the best in the business. He's my main priority and I want to match it with him," Merrin said of the Kiwis enforcer.
"It's something you always dream about as a kid to play against the best and be amongst the best. To be able to make the Four Nations final is definitely a highlight of my career."
This article first appeared on NRL.com.