Trent Merrin feared his representative rugby league career was finished after he was overlooked for NSW in this year’s State of Origin series.
But the star Penrith back-rower now has the chance to establish himself as a long-term No.13 for Australia in Saturday’s Test against New Zealand in Perth.
Merrin, 27 made his Test debut for Australia in the Anzac Test in May last year, but hasn’t been part of the rugby league rep scene since.
“It was the toughest part of my career so far,” Merrin said on Tuesday.
“The best thing about it is I have learnt so much about myself and how to combat it and how to work through it and know what it is like to miss out on something like that
“It is something that really hurts but there was a lesson there.
“There were personal challenges I faced during it. You start to doubt yourself and a lot of negatives come into the mind about not playing in the rep scene again and it is really a mentally challenging position.”
Corey Parker was passed over for selection in coach Mal Meninga’s 24-man Four Nations squad after announcing his NRL retirement. That leaves his Kangaroos lock spot up for grabs. Merrin will be chosen there for the nib Stadium clash against the Kiwis and it is a spot he wants to make his own.
“That is my goal and that is my dream, to be the next No.13 for Australia,” Merrin said.
“That is something I really want to make my own.
“I just have to have a humble approach to it all and work really hard and prepare well and take it out there on Saturday night.”
Merrin produced some of the best footy of his career in helping the Panthers to the second week of the NRL finals after moving from St George Illawarra in the off-season.
He said he has now learned not to take anything for granted.
“Loz (NSW coach Laurie Daley) had a chat with me and said they wanted to head in a different direction this year,” Merrin said.
“There are no hard feelings there. It was a tough pill to swallow but I just went away and worked on the things I needed to.
“Once I got comfortable with the uncomfortable (of missing selection) I started to play the footy I know I am capable of and gained a lot of confidence mid season.
“What that tough period has also highlighted for me is that once you are back in this position you want, to make the most of it.”