By Chris Kennedy (NRL.com)
New South Wales forward Trent Merrin says the confidence he's gained from a season of defensive excellence at club level will stand him in good stead ahead of Wednesday night's Origin series opener.
The second-placed Dragons have the best defensive record in the NRL after 10 rounds with lock Merrin in outstanding form.
He said it's a credit to his coach and teammates that he's in the position he is in the Origin side.
"We've been going awesome and we've built that culture now, we've built it on our defence and defence plays a massive role in rugby league and if I can bring that piece of the Dragons into Origin it would be heading in the right direction to doing the job," Merrin told NRL.com.
Merrin was also delighted for clubmate Josh Dugan as he looks to fill the massive shoes left by the departed Jarryd Hayne, who earned a share of the Brad Fittler Medal last year alongside Ryan Hoffman for the Blues' best and fairest in their drought-breaking series win.
"Excitement and heart" is what the Blues in-form fullback will bring on Wednesday night, according to Merrin.
"Every time he puts on that jersey he does that. It's a credit to himself the way he's put himself in the position to do that. He's got all the confidence from all the boys to do the job."
Despite the electric form of Panthers fullback Matt Moylan, who is currently atop the Dally M leaderboard, any doubts over who would get the sky blue No.1 jersey were put to rest by a stunning 80-minute effort by Dugan in his side's narrow 16-10 loss to the Rabbitohs a week before the Blues side was named.
Dugan ran a staggering 290 metres in that game with eight tackle breaks and would have been a shoo-in for man of the match if his side had won.
"Yeah he certainly did [put his body on the line], if we won he would have got man of the match. He was [best on field] and it's just a little taste of what he's going to bring hopefully next week," Merrin said.
The club's form has also resulted in a call-up for 23-year-old utility forward Tyson Frizell as Blues 18th man, who credited the pack's form for his call-up to the Origin squad.
"Without the rest of the team going well I probably wouldn't have found myself here," he said.
"I'd like to think I'm playing decent footy but with the team doing well collectively that has helped me get to where I am now. Everyone's been pulling their weight at training and definitely in the game. That's been showing in our results so far so hopefully we can find ourselves playing semi final footy later in the year."
Merrin said he heartily congratulated Frizell when he was brought in.
"He thoroughly deserves it – him or Joel Thompson, they've both had a great start to the year and it's great for them to get the credit they've been given because they've worked hard in pre-season and they've worked hard all year and they deserve everything that comes to them."