BRISBANE- NSW forward Trent Merrin has credited the influence of Wayne Bennett with helping him become a fully-fledged member of the Blues squad.
Merrin had a meteoric start to his career under Bennett winning the 2010 NRL grand final as a 20-year-old with St George Illawarra and less than 12 months later he was lining up for NSW.
After helping the Blues level the series in game two in both 2011 and 2012, Stuart opted against picking Merrin for bots deciders something he admits shattered his confidence and left him wracked with self-doubt.
"As a kid I never made any rep teams so I had to work really hard to be recognised," Merrin told AAP.
"But once I hit the NRL scene everything come really swiftly. I was playing first grade and then grand finals and then suddenly I was playing Origin.
"I took it pretty personally being cut for game three two years running, it really hurt.
"I was going through a really tough time. I started doubting myself and judging myself."
Sensing Merrin was struggling in 2011 before his move to Newcastle, Bennett sat down with the youngster and told him he needed to compartmentalise his life if he was to fulfil his potential.
"I think you start to drift away from reality a bit when you play footy at first grade," he said.
"Wayne was fantastic and gave me some good advice, as were my parents.
"It's a big mind game rugby league. If you let it get over you it can really bring you down.
"I used to live, breathe and eat footy. It takes over your life. Wayne drove it home that you play footy, then you need to get away from it.
"I am very lucky to have rugby league as my career but sometimes it takes over too much and it can do your head in.
"I am very close to him. Whenever I chat to him I have to thank him for everything he has done for me."
Merrin is now settled off the field with his relationship with surfing superstar Sally Fitzgibbons.
"I think to get away from the game and have such a special person in my life makes me a very lucky person.
"It's good to have someone whose career I can idolise.
"I couldn't be happier with our relationship."