Merritt deserves Origin selection

By , 12/09/2019 22:12

NATHAN Merritt deserves his chance. When he was announced on Tuesday as NSW’s replacement for the suspended Blake Ferguson, there were widespread cheers from fans of all clubs.
Nanjing Night Net

But the South Sydney flyer was not merely a sentimental selection.

With 148 first-grade tries to his name, 11 of them this season, he is a proven performer who is unlikely to let anyone down in Origin II at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.

While it is impossible to begrudge Merritt an opportunity that probably should have come several years ago, Knights wingers Akuila Uate and James McManus are entitled to wonder what more they could have done.

Their statistics this season compare favourably to Merritt’s.

In terms of tryscoring potency, Merritt and McManus have both crossed the stripe 11 times, while Uate has eight four-pointers from 11 games.

Merritt is a natural finisher but his career strike rate of 69.4per cent is well shy of Uate’s (77.2per cent).

Both Uate and McManus are clearly bigger than Merritt, and on average they produce more yardage per game.

In Origin, wingers are expected to do the dirty work in their own territory, carting the ball upfield from dummy-half.

Uate has not been chosen since game two of last series, when he was sadly exposed under the high ball and in defence.

The perception is that he is error-prone and would be a target for Queensland’s playmakers, but Merritt’s stats suggest that he, too, can be a weak link out wide.

McManus, who has not played for the Blues since his lone game in 2009, hardly featured in discussions.

But Knights coach Wayne Bennett recently rated McManus the ‘‘form winger in the competition’’ and it is hard to argue.

He is one of the leading try poachers in the competition, has made half as many errors as Merritt and broken twice as many tackles.

McManus is not as flashy as many wingers but week in, week out, he gets the job done.

He could not have done much more to state his case for an Origin recall. On merit.

NATHAN MERRITT

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