Merritt to inspire Souths

SYDNEY – South Sydney coach Michael Maguire says the retirement of Nathan Merritt has given his teammates a chance to reflect on the culture the club has created ahead of tonight’s NRL preliminary final against the Sydney Roosters.

Merritt, 31, broke the club’s long-standing try-scoring mark with his 145th four-pointer earlier this year and announced his retirement in a packed conference room at Redfern Oval on Wednesday before family, friends, teammates and club officials.

Souths boss Shane Richardson and captain John Sutton said Merritt had played a key role in lifting the Rabbitohs from the competition cellar in 2002, when they returned to the competition and the one-time NSW representative made his NRL debut, to their status as premiership heavyweights today.

Boom rookie Alex Johnston has been preferred on the Rabbitohs wing over Merritt by Maguire since mid-season.

Merritt won’t play in the ANZ Stadium clash against Souths’ bitter arch-rivals but he has been training with the squad in the lead up and Maguire said his 13-year career would prove an inspiration to teammates ahead of the clash with the Roosters.

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