After weeks of rumours and new head coach Dave Furner admitting interest in the player, Leeds Rhinos have this morning confirmed the signing of Australian forward Trent Merrin from the NRL’s Penrith Panthers on a four-year marquee player deal.
With over two hundred appearances in the NRL and having pulled on the Kangaroos jersey seven times, 29-year-old Merrin arrives in Yorkshire with a wealth of experience. Indeed, Leeds have been keen through the off-season to recruit top quality players as Furner and director of rugby Kevin Sinfield plot to revive the Rhinos’ fortunes after an inconsistent period which culminated in a second campaign in The Qualifiers in three years. Merrin had been identified as one of the players who could improve the squad and, after plenty of speculation surrounding the possible move, it seemed that the transfer had fallen through after the Australian forward looked to have turned down a move to Super League in favour of staying in the NRL.
However, the announcement was made this morning by the club and, following the departure of Mitch Garbutt to Hull KR, Merrin’s arrival will fill a front row shaped hole in 2019, although he is also more than capable of playing elsewhere in the pack. “He is an international class forward who was a regular last season for Penrith Panthers in the NRL,” Sinfield told the Rhinos’ official website. “He has an outstanding reputation in Australia for his leadership within a group and is someone who has played for a decade at the highest level of the game,” he added.
He will be joining a Leeds team who have already recruited Konrad Hurrell – also on a marquee player deal – Tui Lolohea, Callum McLelland and Dom Crosby ahead of 2019. It is still believed that the club are in the market for further recruits in their bid to return to the upper echelons of Super League, something Merrin is keen to do also. “I have done everything I possibly could in the NRL and this is a great opportunity for me to come to a great club with a fantastic culture and hopefully achieve some goals together,” he remarked. During his time in the NRL, he won both the Grand Final in 2010 and World Club Challenge in 2011 with St George Illawarra Dragons with whom he enjoyed a seven season spell.
Penrith’s official website remarked of Merrin’s off-field qualities as another positive, commenting on his work away from the pitch in promoting mental health with his #MoveOutOfYourHead campaign. Joining a club with Stevie Ward and Kallum Watkins in their ranks, both of whom have spoken publicly about their struggles, he will no doubt be an asset to both Leeds and rugby league as a whole in promoting well-being among the community. “We wish him well with his new challenge in the English Super League. Leeds has secured itself a very good man,” the Panthers’ statement added.
In bringing Merrin to Headingley, the Rhinos are believed to have beaten off competition from other NRL clubs in securing his signature, something chief executive Gary Hetherington is a statement of intent for both the club and the competition. “This is hugely significant for not just Leeds Rhinos but the Super League competition and shows the ambition of our club to compete at the very top of the game,” he noted.