Maestro Merritt is a man on a mission
The maestro: Nathan Merritt celebrates scoring a try (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee Mckay)
With so much gold-medal whingeing polluting our media over the past 11 days, I wanted to devote some space today to an ‘Olympic class’ rugby league winger – Nathan Merritt.
South Sydney’s Nathan Merritt is my man on the podium and I am eagerly awaiting his heroics in the upcoming NRL finals series – incredibly, the first in his brilliant 10 year career.
This guy never plays Origin or Test football but inevitably excites when he pulls on the red and green jumper.
I have been a Merritt fan for many years now and it has long confounded me that he is not one of the first names discussed when the rep season rolls around.
As a modern day try scorer, Merritt sits up front in a class of his own.
He has scored 135 tries in just 194 top grade games to be listed among South Sydney’s greatest try-scorers. Last year was a record-breaker for the speedy Aboriginal, topping the NRL tries tally for the second time with 23 four-pointers.
He scored five tries in one unforgettable outing against Parramatta and backed up the feat with a hat-trick against Canberra the following week.
I really like the way he goes looking for the ball, whether he’s picked on the wing or at fullback, where he is proving to be a more than capable substitute for suspended superstar, Greg Inglis.
His positional sense is at times uncanny and his ‘nose’ for tries is right up there with the game’s notable try-getters such as Ken Irvine, Terry Lamb and Steve Menzies.
When thinking defence, Merritt is not the biggest back going around at 181cm (5’11) and 90kg but he is fantastic in the air, owns a great pair of hands and has the courage of three men when onrushing monsters threaten to smash him into the turf.
There are many big names to salivate over when the Rabbitohs are on the run but for mine, Merritt is the ultimate entertainer, a player whose game is tailor-made for finals footy.
Injuries or Souths’ poor (team) form has denied him a shot in the pressure cooker playoff games but when Merritt makes his debut in the weeks ahead, it’s a sure bet he will be one of the most dangerous players in the series.
And this brings me to the main point of this article.
NSW have a new coach coming in for Origin 2013 and whether it’s Phil Gould, Trent Barrett, Laurie Daley – whoever – I implore that man to closely watch Nathan Merritt’s performance against the best in the code.
This man deserves a serious crack at State of Origin football. His statistics alone demand a sharper look than he has been afforded in the past, but it will come down to how he plays in the cauldron that is finals football.
The Blues (and the Kangaroos, for that matter) could use a winger with his Olympic class and composure.
His ‘finishing line’ every week is painted with thick white chalk and I believe his personal best in rugby league, is yet to come.