WINGER Nathan Merritt says he wishes coach Michael Maguire had joined the club “six or seven years ago”.
While Merritt’s comments after Saturday’s 32-8 preliminary final defeat to Canterbury were interpreted as deeming the season a failure, the man who made his debut for the Bunnies in 2002 is excited about what has been achieved.
“From my experience, I’d loved to have had Madge around five, six, 10 years ago at this club,” said Merritt, 29.
“This club’s been lacking someone like Madge for years. Madge has got so much passion and belief in us and it rubs off on us.
“He showed his authority straight away, just the way training was … he took it up 10 levels from what we’d done previous years.
“He changed a lot of the club. The whole thing, he changed it around, just the way he controlled the team. He makes the team gel together and the bond is a lot closer this year.
“As you can see, we’ve been competitive all year.”
While fans decried a possible eight-point try (Canterbury only got six from it) awarded after a challenge from Sam Burgess, and the loss of halfback Adam Reynolds in the 26th minute, the players themselves reckoned they were beaten by the better team.
Burgess said of the eight-point-try: “I’ve not seen one of them for a long time but the refs call it as they see it … I don’t think it would have made too much of a difference to the overall score. It’s irrelevant.
“Losing Adam, whose been a huge part of our team all year, is not ideal. We lost a little bit of direction, lost a bit of shape.
“Adam didn’t deserve to finish that way, He’s had a cracking year. He’s certainly taken charge of the play throughout the year. For him to finish that way is obviously sad for Adam. I feel for him. He’d certainly have added something to our team. His kicking game is a big part of what we do.
“We certainly missed him but we’re not taking anything away from the Bulldogs.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK