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Trent Merrin could be forgiven for launching an initiative in the middle of one of Australia's biggest ever cricketing scandals and on a day the NRL announced Manly's salary cap punishment after eight months of investigation.

But the Penrith Panthers forward insisted he wouldn't have it any other way as he links with Kids Helpline to help raise awareness in mental health through the #MoveOutOfYourHead compaign – a movement aimed to challenge friends and family to show off their best dance moves and upload to social media.

Merrin is known to be one of the larrikins at the foot of the mountains alongside Josh Mansour, Tyrone May and new recruit James Maloney, but shows a more serious and passionate approach when it comes to issues in society.

"It's an initiative I've been working on for the past year behind the scenes," Merrin said.

"It's too common these days to hear about suicide and mental illness at a young age. To be in such an inspirational position playing rugby league, I think it's something most of us can take advantage of and push forward in a positive way.

"I've been known to bust a move in the sheds after a win so it was something I wanted to grab a hold of. Everyone is capable of having a dance, it's fun and gets you away from that movement and gives you some positive endorphins. It's a fun initiative.

"The way most people look at it now you can use social media the wrong way with bullying. My main goal is to use that base as something positive and interact with fans and young kids to aspire to be a footballer or better person."

The 28-year-old admitted he was disappointed to hear of the Sea Eagles' salary cap punishment as the game continues to focus on a range of off-field controversies in the opening month of the 2018 season.

"It's hard to put your finger on, you never really know what's going on [outside of the game]," Merrin said.

"As a player, you obviously want everyone to be on the same playing field. To make it a competition you don't want to see things like this happen.

"It's definitely a negative for the game. As a player, you don't like to see this stuff come out but obviously it's uncontrollable as individuals. Hopefully the NRL handles the rest.

"Clubs and people above are in charge of all that so they'll handle that the way they're meant to. As a player, all you can do is put your head down and work hard and do the best you can for your team."

The Panthers will travel to Townsville on Tuesday looking to rectify their two-point loss to Canterbury but face a North Queensland Cowboys outfit desperate to make amends after back-to-back losses on the road.

Penrith will also be without key playmaker Nathan Cleary, who will miss his first game in the Telstra Premiership since making his NRL debut in 2016.

Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary.
Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Early mail indicates Anthony Griffin will blood Samoan representative Jarome Luai for the clash alongside James Maloney, but Merrin wouldn't be drawn into any assumptions.

"It definitely does damage our squad losing a player like Nathan. He adds a lot to this team and will be missed," Merrin said.

"It's onto the next with Nath and what he can do next to get back. It was a blow for him – his first major injury in first grade [but] he's a very upbeat bloke and professional.

"We've got a few players who can step up. [Jarome's] an exciting player, definitely got a lot of talent and aggression. If he does get the chance, we all back him. He does talk out on the field which really helps, too."

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.