Opinion: Merrin a $2.2m Panther

Trent Merrin has agreed to terms on a three year contact with the Penrith Panthers for a reported $750,000AU per year deal.

This will make the current St George-Illawarra Dragon forward one of the richest forwards in the National Rugby League as he’s set to earn $2.25m from 2016 onwards.

For Penrith this a big coup.  Once a club that couldn’t attract quality front line players, Merrin’s signing demonstrates the work that Phil Gould and his off-field personnel have done to attract big name players.  You would also think that this move will yield results on-field as they look to become a consistent finals competitor.  Something that Penrith haven’t had too much success at doing.

The success at the signing is not lost on Gould.  In the club’s official statement he said, “We are absolutely delighted to confirm Trent Merrin will be joining the Panthers for the next three seasons. This is one of the most significant player signings this club has made in its 49 year history.

“Trent has been part of a Premiership winning team and already achieved 10 State of Origin appearances for NSW. At 25 years of age we believe Trent is about to enter the prime time of his playing career with his best football still in front of him. Apart from his obvious playing talents, Trent brings valuable experience and leadership qualities to Panthers. We are very excited about this signing”

Being a Panther fan I am happy to ride the wave of emotion that comes with the huge news.   I say cheekily that the Panthers will win two out of three premierships between 2016 and 2018!

I don’t have any problems with Merrin’s game and he has an entitlement to shop around to find the best price.  After all rugby league players only spend a short time in the game and can suffer with post-career problems with their body.

I think it’s premature to think Merrin is the best forward in the game.  I regard Matt Scott from the North Queensland Cowboys well ahead of the pack.  Jesse Bromwich would also be a close second now that Sam Burgess has moved back home to play rugby.  A move to Penrith could change that.

Merrin sets a benchmark right now as one of the highest paid forwards in the game.  I would be surprised in the current climate where rugby league is trying to resist players from switching codes that in three years time we will have multiple forwards earning $1.0m plus per year.

I am cautious that $2.25m can be a risk over three seasons to pay for any player, let alone a forward.

Remember back to Adam Blair’s move to Wests Tigers?  In 2011 the Storm forward signed on the dotted line at $500,000 a year over four years.  It could be argued the hype around Blair moving to a Sydney club saw his career go backwards.  Something Blair will be keen to turn around with a transfer to the Broncos.

Just like Tigers fans, Panther fans won’t be happy if Merrin doesn’t live up to his hefty price tag.

As Gould says, a landmark day in player signings at the Panthers club. Congratulations to Trent Merrin and his new club.

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