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Rarely do players get behind someone playing for an opposing team, particularly at Origin time, but in Nathan Merritts case an exception has been made. In fact, one is hard pressed to find a more popular Origin selection, such is the popularity of Merritt and his positive effect on Souths and the game, with everyone from Rabbitohs, to Maroons, to Tigers throwing their support behind the newly anointed Blues winger.

Within half an hour of learning of his selection, Merritt swapped a Souths training shirt for a sky-blue one, ending an eleven year odyssey, with the thirty year olds transformation only complimented by his ear to ear smile. And while Merritt felt the full weight of the emotion of being picked, he wasnt alone, with the wider Rugby League community rejoicing alongside him.

Among the list of unlikely well-wishers was Tigers prop Keith Galloway, who took to Twitter to voice his satisfaction, tweeting; Over the moon for Nath Merritt making the origin side. If anyone deserves it, its him. Top guy and thoroughly deserved. Galloway wasnt the only one.

While Origin was built on the likes of Artie Beetson belting fellow Parramatta team mate Mick Cronin, Rabbitohs from both sides of the border have exchanged the type of pleasantries that would make Tommy Raudonikis froth at the mouth.

Current Queensland Origin star Chris McQueen also tweeted; FINALLY!! So pumped for this guy despite being a proud Qlder, while fellow Maroons Ben Lowe and Dave Tyrrell didnt let their state of allegiance get in the way of their satisfaction either when it came to the popular selection.

I was absolutely stoked for Nathan Merritt, said Lowe.

Im a proud Queenslander so hopefully he doesnt do too well, but therell be a little spot in my head going for Merro.

Hes been at this club for a long time. Hes been through some dark days, but hes at a stage in his career now where hes playing great football and hes got the opportunity to play for the Blues.

Tyrrell mirrored Lowes thoughts.

Merritt deserves everything he gets, hes an absolute legend. What hes done for Souths and the game in general is massive, so Im really glad to see him get his opportunity.

What he has done is no small feat either, with the Rabbitoh earning his place in the history books in 2006, becoming the first player to become the NRLs top try-scorer from the last placed team on 22 four-pointers for the season. Couple his obvious footballing ability with his work in the local and indigenous communities, and its easy to see why Merritt has become such a popular choice.

But for Rabbitohs Coach Michael Maguire, his wingers selection in the Blues line-up boils down to two things; hard work and experience.

Hes just really composed about the way he does things and I think that comes with experience. Hes played a lot of footy now, said a proud Maguire.

Im sure hes going to perform really well. Hes been waiting a long, long time for the opportunity and one thing I do know about Nathan is that he likes the big stage and he likes performing, So Ive got no doubt that hell perform tomorrow night.

Even Maguire wasnt exempt from feeling the emotions of seeing Merro picked, with the Rabbitohs mentor heading the list of people offering his best wishes.

It was excellent. You cant buy those moments when you see your players get announced in big teams like this. Hes worked really hard and its thoroughly deserved.

Hes a try-scoring machine, so if he pops up the way he does for us, Im sure hes going to get a few opportunities in the NSW team as well. Fingers crossed he gets across the line.

For the man himself, his journey towards a Blues jumper means so much more, with his odyssey standing as a timely example for those who need strength, summing it up simply, by saying;

No matter how long it takes, you can achieve your goals and what you want to do in life.
Acknowledgement of Country

South Sydney Rabbitohs respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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