The only snub sacked Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin addressed after Penrith’s shock 31-12 NRL win over the Broncos was NSW’s treatment of Trent Merrin.
Rather than savour a personal victory upon his return to Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, Penrith coach Griffin wondered why lock Merrin had been overlooked by Blues selectors this year.
Almost two years to the day after being axed by Brisbane, Griffin returned to Suncorp Stadium with the Penrith reins for the first time and extended his dominance over the man who replaced him at the Broncos helm – Wayne Bennett.
The Panthers’ upset marked Griffin’s eighth victory in 10 games against sides coached by Bennett.
The Panthers jumped into the top eight with the five-tries-to-two win that also dented Brisbane’s top four hopes.
But asked if he had any personal satisfaction with the win, Griffin said: “No.
“It gives me satisfaction to see the way they played, just to see how our guys are learning and starting to gel together.”
Griffin deflected praise to inspirational lock Merrin who ran 249m and scored the match sealing 79th-minute try in his 150th NRL game.
Griffin believed 13-Origin veteran Merrin should have featured in this year’s State of Origin series for the Blues.
“I thought he would have been great for NSW at some stage this year but we have received the benefit of that over the last six weeks,” Griffin said.
“He (Merrin) is just a really great team man.
“I think that is why he finds that bit extra.”
Penrith captain Matt Moylan said Merrin was the club’s heart and soul.
“His character and personality around the club brings us together,” he said.
“He’s a bit of a larrikin around training and good for the culture of the club.”
Former UK Man of Steel winner Zak Hardaker, on loan from Leeds, was another standout.
The England fullback came off the bench to have his best game yet for Penrith, scoring his first try in his fourth Panthers appearance.
“By his own admission he found the level a bit of a shock once he got out here,” Griffin said.
“He’s still getting used to the physicality and speed of it.
“It was great to see him contribute.”