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Try scoring machine Nathan Merritt finally lines up for the Blues

A simple, but enduring memory I have of Nathan Merritt makes it tough for me to ever think of the South Sydney winger as anything but a deadset legend. 

It was a sighting actually, near my old place at the Redfern end of Surry Hills in Sydney and it wouldn’t have registered if I wasn’t a Rabbitohs fan. At first, I saw an Aboriginal bloke wearing thongs (flip flops if you must), a T-shirt and footy shorts (not unusual yet), holding a pair of boots by the laces in one hand and the little hand of a kid in the other – they were walking slow, and laughing often. The only remarkable thing was who it was.  

Yeah, great story, you may not say, but that image combined with Merritt’s upbringing – around Redfern’s notoriously rough ‘The Block’ – and how he’s conducted himself on the field since his debut for the Bunnies in 2002 says plenty about why he’s such a popular choice to line up for the Blues in Wednesday’s second State of Origin.

How he came into the squad says something too – he replaces Blake Ferguson (suspended after an indecent assault in a nightclub charge). The good news story this is took some attention away from the fact Laurie Daley chose Josh Dugan (sacked by Canberra Raiders for boozing last year)  to replace injured Jarryd Hayne. Merritt is a breath of fresh air in a garbage dump.

From a purely footy view this is long overdue. If it was down to Merritt’s prolific try-scoring, he could have played for NSW since 2006 – his first year back at Souths after two misspent years at Cronulla in which he scored the most tries in the NRL despite playing for the wooden spooners. More recently, in 2011, he topped the tally with Ben Barba. Last year his season was shortened by injury, but he still scored 14 tries in 19 games. Not shabby at all. 

Scandalously, he’s played for City just twice. And while he’s been close to rep honours before (he’s been in the Australian train-on squad but not played and represented the PM’s XIII), it’s funny 2013’s the year he breaks through. It was in 2013 he made his first headline for ill discipline – he slept in and missed training. If only he’d misbehaved sooner.

» Agree or disagree? Give us one reason Merritt shouldn’t be a Blue? letters@tntmagazine.com

Tahiti thrashed with panache 

Last week I said Tahiti’s presence at the Confederations Cup in Brazil can’t be good for football, fearing the inexperienced amateurs would be brutally embarrassed.

How wrong I was. Sure, they got flogged by Nigeria (6-1), Spain (10-0) and probably Uruguay (who they played at the weekend). But in doing so they’ve won fans all over the world. 

Minnows invariably ruin a game of football (I’m looking at you San Marino and many teams Australia play in Asia). They don’t have the technique or physicality, so spend the game either ‘parking the bus’, writhing in fake, time-wasting agony or lashing out. Tahiti did none of that.

Regardless of the scoreline, they kept attacking, playing positive and passionate (if not polished) football, which Fernando Torres and co paid tribute to them for. There are only positives in Toa Aito (the Iron Warriors) getting a chance to show this attitude.

Photo: Getty


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Sport opinion: New kid from The Block Nathan Merritt's Origin debut well overdue
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