Merrin has sights set on success with Panthers
RUGBY LEAGUE: Trent Merrin takes great pleasure in the fact he can make someone smile.
Just by having his photo taken with a fan, interacting with the supporters who are the lifeblood of the NRL.
It might sound corny, but not when you understand the background to his story.
How the man now in charge of leading this Penrith pack into a season where they will start as equal NRL premiership favourites could have dreamt he would end up where he is today.
"Oh man, no way in the world," the 27-year-old said.
Today he is the star Australian Test forward with the superstar surfing girlfriend.
But as a kid growing up, Merrin's world had no shortage of challenges, and more than its share of hurt.
"I had a lot of criticism as a kid and faced a lot things that a child shouldn't have to, because of weight most definitely," Merrin said. "It brought on a bit of depression. I was a kid, I was probably around eight, nine, 10, all the way up until I was about 16.
"I could have easily went off and chose other pathways. But I faced a lot of challenges and I never forgot what I learned. I had great parents who guided me, I had great role models who I aspired to be. And I had dreams and goals I wanted to achieve."
Which is why every time Merrin is asked to give back, he does it with pride. Hoping his success can inspire someone to overcome their own battles.
"That is all I do it for," he said. "That is why I am so grateful to be able to play at a high level, to give back to people who come out after work.
"People who bring their kids along who have goals and dreams to be NRL players. People on the street who pay their hard earned to come out to games. People in hospitals who can't come out to a game. That is what I do it for.
"We are a role model in the community and to use that power in such a positive way is something that a lot of NRL players do, and it is a great lesson for players who are coming through."
Last year he arrived at Penrith under enormous pressure to prove himself again after leaving the Dragons. Then when he missed out on NSW selection, he admits he fell into a "dark place".
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he fought back to win the club's best and fairest player award, before his ultimate reward being selected for Australia.
Merrin doesn't hide from the fact he wants to earn back a NSW jersey this year.
"Missing out on the Blues, I was in a dark place," he said. "I lost that last year and it is something I don't want to feel. But my main priority is to play well for Penrith and try and win a premiership, and if those other accolades come along you grab them with both hands.
"I have learned from everything that has happened in my life. There has always been a challenge and that is what I love about challenges. I don't really see them as a failure, I see them as something you can learn from."