Prolific: Nathan Merritt scores against Wests Tigers.Nathan Merritt is going just as the good times arrive.
If South Sydney require any further motivation to break a 43-year premiership drought, it will come on Wednesday when Merritt officially announces his retirement. He will do so as the greatest tryscorer in Rabbitohs history. Most of his tries have come in losing sides, such as when he topped the NRL season tally as the Bunnies earned the wooden spoon.
If Souths win the grand final, it is highly unlikely they will do so with Merritt in their side. The 31-year-old has continued to train throughout the finals series in case he is required but it would require an injury crisis to the backline for him to be called upon again. He has scored just two tries from 12 NRL appearances this year after falling in the pecking order behind Alex Johnston, Lote Tuqiri, Bryson Goodwin and Joel Reddy. While there was a one-year contract extension on the table, the former NSW winger wanted to go out on his terms rather than spend 2015 playing predominantly for feeder side North Sydney.
Merritt will finish among the game’s top 10 tryscorers. Having topped the season lists in 2011 and 2013, he broke Benny Wearing’s South Sydney record of 145 with a long-awaited four-pointer against Penrith in April. Wearing’s record had stood for 81 years.
A premiership win is one of the only goals that has eluded Merritt during a stellar first-grade career which started in 2002. Maligned for being too small at a time when wingers weigh as much as forwards, he represented City, the Prime Minister’s XIII and the Indigenous All Stars. And while he had a forgettable game, the highlight is perhaps his sole appearance for NSW in last year’s State of Origin series.
The former Shark will join fellow champions including Anthony Minichiello, Jason King, Luke Bailey, Ashley Harrison, Brent Tate, Brett White, Braith Anasta, Kevin Kingston, Cory Paterson and Beau Ryan in retiring.
However, Merritt won’t be lost to the game altogether. The Rabbitohs want him to remain involved with the club in an ambassadorial role and it’s understood he is interested in continuing to work with the indigenous community in Redfern. He has already been honoured with the naming of the Nathan Merrin Shield, which went to the winner of the under nines tournament last weekend.
It’s likely that some of the records Merritt holds will stand for some time. In 2011, he equalled the Rabbitohs record for most tries in a game with five against Parramatta. The former George Piggins Medallist passed Bob McCarthy’s record of 211 appearances for the Rabbitohs this year and sits behind only long-time teammate John Sutton as the foundation club’s most capped player.
The Rabbitohs will progress to an historic grand final if they can notch their second victory for the year against arch rivals the Roosters on Friday night. A crowd of 60,000 is expected at ANZ Stadium.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.