By Chris Kennedy (NRL.com)
Dragons lock Trent Merrin is crossing his fingers for more involvement in Origin II than he got in the series opener, but like the opening game – where he was left on the bench until the final 20 minutes – insists he is happy to fill whatever role is needed for the team.
"It wasn't frustrating so much, I think it was just trying to keep level headed and not play too much of the game before I went out there," Merrin said of a nervous 60 minutes on the bench watching each side cross for two tries and draw level at 10-all.
"It was a job I had to do for the team and I was happy on doing so but we'll reassess and see what happens for Game Two."
Merrin said he hadn't had any indication from coach Laurie Daley about the reasoning behind how he was used, although he said he was hopeful it was a case of him being entrusted to come on and make an impact with the game in the balance in the late stages.
It is not an unfamiliar role for the 25-year-old, who has played all 11 of his Origins to date off the bench and actually got less than 20 minutes in games two and three last year.
With inspirational skipper Paul Gallen back in the side at lock Merrin was one of several players, along with Game One lock Josh Jackson and fellow Game One bench players Boyd Cordner and Andrew Fifita, who could have made way for Gallen.
It ended up being Fifita, who struggled for impact in the first of his two stints in Game One, and Merrin admitted "it's always nice hearing your name read out" when told of his retention for the crucial MCG rubber.
The only team changes for NSW were the recalls of both Gallen and winger Brett Morris, who were each unavailable through injury for the series opener, and after a close 11-10 loss Merrin said it was a relief Daley had chosen to stick with the side that came so close in Game One rather than making mass changes.
"I think we were the better team on the day. It was just that unfortunate event with them kicking the field goal that let it all down. We don't need to work on too much, it's just more our execution at times," Merrin said.
"I don't think there needed to be too many changes. Gal and B-Moz, they're great players and they need to be in the team. It's not something we needed to change too much."
The return of Gallen would be a huge boost, he said.
"He's a leader and he's our skipper. It's very inspiring having him back in the team. I think all the boys draw a lot of inspiration from him. He's a great bloke to be around and learn off."
Of his former Dragons teammate Morris, Merrin added: "He's great, B-Moz, he's got a lot of experience at Origin level. He's just a competitor. You know what you're going to get from B-Moz, he's always going to be there for you."
Like his coach and teammates, Merrin threw his support behind halves Mitchell Pearce and Trent Hodkinson.
Both had solid games in the series opener and Pearce in particular was outstanding in the opening 40 minutes of Origin I but both have been criticised for not getting the team over the line with the game in the balance in the final 10 minutes.
"I think they were great Game One and they can only get better form that. They're two great halves and they've got their head on their shoulder and we'll draw some confidence from them," Merrin said.