He has banished his guilt over his State of Origin suspension, but St George Illawarra workhorse Trent Merrin admits he is battling nerves about how his body will stand up in his NRL return.
Merrin will make a timely comeback on Saturday from a four-week suspension in the Dragons’ crunch clash against the Warriors with both sides walking the finals’ tightrope.
Merrin was banned for a dangerous throw on Corey Parker during last month’s Origin decider and admits he wants to make it up to his club teammates.
He has not pulled on the Red V since late June in their round-16 loss to the Eels and in his absence – due to NSW duty and suspension – the Dragons slumped to a seven-game losing streak.
That drought was the equal-worst in the joint venture’s history and came to an end on Sunday when they thrashed bottom-of-the-table Newcastle 46-24.
While he possesses one of the biggest motors of any forward in the competition, Merrin admits he is worried about being caught short of a gallop in his comeback game in Wellington.
“You can’t train for match fitness and it’s something that I’m nervous about,” Merrin said on Tuesday.
“But I think once you’re out on the field the emotion takes over and you’re amongst the boys and you do the best you can.
“I’m there for the team so it comes down to your mental state to push though that.”
With Merrin’s return the Dragons are nearing full strength after being knocked around by injuries over the last two months.
Their only concern is winger Jason Nightingale who has undergone scans and is expected to be out for several weeks after rolling his right ankle against the Knights.
The Dragons and Warriors are both on 22 points however sit on either side of the top eight cut-off.
The Dragons jumped into seventh after reviving their season against the Knights while the Warriors have dropped to ninth after three straight losses.
The next fortnight will have a big impact on the finals fate of Paul McGregor’s side as they face a tough follow-up from their trip to New Zealand with a visit to Queensland to take on ladder-leaders Brisbane.
They are taking a big-game mentality into both and will fly directly to Brisbane after Saturday’s match and go into a five-day camp in preparation for the Broncos.
“It’s coming to the last few days of the season and we’re putting our hands up for the semis,” Merrin said.
“It’ll be great to spend some quality training sessions together in different parts and get away from the usual routine.
“It’s definitely going to be beneficial.”