IN journalism, we like epiphanies.
The process of truths slowly dawning on individuals makes for particularly dreary copy. On the other hand, the masses can never get enough of near death experiences, learning from the errors of others and getting a stern talking-to.
Morality tales have been around just about as long as humans have, after all.
So when your correspondent read in last week’s League Week that Trent Merrin was watching what he ate and had replaced fat with muscle, almost kilo for kilo, he figured this A-List assignment would be a simple one.
That is, meet the 23-year-old St George Illawarra forward in the foyer of the NSW team hotel, ask him what prompted him to make such major changes in his life, and go home with a good story.
But most people don’t arrive at big life decisions via bolts from the blue, unfortunately. As things turn out, the closest Merrin came was a double jolt from the Blues.
“The last two years haven’t been the best for me, getting cut from the last game on both occasions,” he says, after waving goodbye to a couple of team-mates who are heading off for lunch.
“It’s something that I held pretty close to me, it’s something that hurt a lot and it’s something that I want to turn into a positive and get back in here. It’s turned out great.”
All of which sounds wonderful – but NSW lost both those games so maybe it wasn’t such a great decision on the part of selector to drop Merrin for the deciders…
He nods. “. I guess … I’m not big on blaming others. The first think I looked at was myself. There could have been a few things I could have fixed up in myself. I’m not too sure what they were. But I decided to turn it into a positive and turn my game into what it is now.”
That is, the Shellharbour product couldn’t say for sure what got him the bum’s rush from the Blues. So he decided to work hard on EVERYTHING.
Not quite an epiphany then, but a kick in the backside. The first thing that changed was diet.
“Matty Cooper helped me out a lot,” he says. “He’s pretty switched on with all that stuff. I just sponged everything he was telling me
“It’s not much, it’s just being more cautious of what I’m putting in and how much I’m putting in. And it’s (relating it) to the workload I’m doing too. You just have to weigh everything up.
“It helps not carrying that shit excess weight … especially out on the field when you’re out there for long minutes and you’ve got to push your body, to a certain extent, every game.
“Our front rowers, we always have a certain standard that we have to be at but I’m well below that (weight) now and it’s just something that I have to keep an eye on. It’s going pretty good so far.”
Merrin’s transformation has been such that instead of being a bit player as a prop, he is now capable of playing a whole game at lock. Yes, that’s quite a change.
There was more to it than food. Twenty-three is quite young but most of us come to the realisation at some stage that what we’re doing is not going to last forever and we should make the most of it…
“I think I’ve matured a lot more to the game, doing things outside of footy that are more professional, getting my body ready … especially in my recovery periods,” he says.
“I think it was just me wanting to be the best player I can be and to achieve things like this. I just want to find it inside me. I know there’s more to deliver and I want to take it to a new (level) in my life. I just want to keep improving each year.
“Rugby league doesn’t last forever and while I’m here I might as well grab it with both hands and do the best that I can. You look at players like Cooper Cronk … he was saying that in his off-season he travels overseas to train at high (altitudes). Seeing and hearing about players like that trying to better themselves … . if you find the best player you can inside yourself, you prolong your career.”
Despite the Dragons’ slow start to the year, Merrin has had ‘Origin’ written all over him from the get-go. Reports of coach Steve Price being replaced by Craig Bellamy were distracting for the joint venture, he admits.
“When the talks were going on about new coaches and that, the ship was a bit rocked for a while because no-one knew what was going on,” says Trent, who reckoned senior Dragons ‘would have’ told management they wanted Price retained.
“All we wanted to do was concentrate on footy. As soon as the news came out, off of the boys were relaxed because we knew where the future of the club was going.”
Now the Dragons need to get on track and stay there. As for Origin tonight? Merrin has some interesting thoughts.
“The last two years, including my debut year, I was thinking about the Queensland team too much. I haven’t thought about them once. That’s the – I won’t say cockiness but – confidence. I’m confident in the team we’ve got here, the staff and everything about it.
“Me personally now, I need to not buy into the whole outside of (Origin). You can get caught up on it and it can drain you. The build-up to it is crazy. I’ve learned from that and I know it’s not going to help my game if I go crazy on the way to the game. You’ve got to stay composed and just go over the things I’ve got to do for the team and what I need to do.”
Just to indicate how deeply Trent Merrin has thought about the trajectory he wanted his career to take, he also adopted a personal media strategy. If things went his way this year, he was going to attract a lot more publicity and he wanted to be able to deal with it efficiently.
“Because I knew that I was going to try and better myself, there probably would be a lot more in the papers about me and on the shows and all that and I didn’t want to buy into that and start getting ahead of myself or change the way that I’m doing things,” he explains.
“I still go on the shows, there’s nothing wrong with having a chat. I can talk footy. I’ve got control of that. I can talk about whatever I want because it’s me and not someone talking about me. I try and stay out of the papers now because it’s someone else talking about me. That doesn’t really fit into what I’m doing, what I’m trying to achieve.
“I get told by my parents. Mum, Dad, everyone reads ‘em. I get told. But that’s as far is it goes for me. I’d rather have my mum call me and go blah, blah, blah, blah, tell me about what was said. I go ‘alright, sweet’ and that’s it.”
Instead, Trent now reads motivational books. “I just find these inspirational quotes out of them or sayings that I can put me on my path,” he says.
Asked to name a few of these tomes, he demures. “I couldn’t tell you the authors,” he smiles.
“….Harry Potter’s alright”.
Harry Potter Inspires Blues Enforcer. That’s even better than an epiphany.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK