Modern day Rabbitohs legend Nathan Merritt has announced his retirement from the NRL at the end of the 2014 season today, ending a career which has seen him become the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ all-time leading try scorer.
Merritt, who made his first grade debut with South Sydney against the Auckland Warriors at Ericsson Stadium in 2002, has gone on to play 237 NRL games to date over the past 13 seasons, including 218 first grade games for South Sydney, making him the second-most capped Rabbitohs player of all time behind team mate and captain, John Sutton.
Merritt, the Rabbitohs’ George Piggins Medallist in 2011 as the Club’s best and fairest player, holds the Club record for tries scored in first grade, crossing for 146 tries for South Sydney, having scored on debut back in 2002. Merritt has also kicked 34 goals and one famous field goal at the Sydney Cricket Ground against the Wests Tigers for a club total of 653 points. Including Merritt’s two seasons with the Cronulla Sharks, he has scored 154 tries in his career, kicked 39 goals and the one field goal for a career total of 695 points.
Merritt also announced today the establishment of the Nathan Merritt Foundation, a foundation that will provide support and mentoring for Indigenous youth in the South Sydney area, focusing particularly on Redfern.
The Nathan Merritt foundation is founded by Nathan and various other elite athletes who want to help and mentor young athletes who have faced adversity to reach their goals.
Merritt is born, raised and still resides in Redfern and sees firsthand the need for more support for the children in the area and around the country.
Merritt says now is the time to commence the next chapter of his career for him and his family.
“I absolutely love playing for South Sydney. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid jumping the fence at Redfern Oval to watch guys like Mario Fenech and Craig Coleman run around,” Merritt said.
“But the time has come to call it a day and move on to the next stage of my career, setting up my Foundation and supporting the people in Redfern and the South Sydney community.
“I want to thank my wonderful wife Faith and my kids Jada, Jalen, Nakeeya, Anthony and Honey; my coaches and team mates right from my first game for the Alexandria Rovers to today at the Rabbitohs; all of the staff, sponsors and board members over the years from both the Rabbitohs and Souths Juniors; and the Members and fans of the Rabbitohs for the support they’ve given me throughout my career.
“I hope I’ve done you proud, and I will always consider myself to be a Rabbitoh.
“I’m still very much part of this year’s squad and we still have plenty of work to do this year, and I’m looking forward to being part of it, and I’m also looking forward to starting this next part of my career.”
Rabbitohs CEO Shane Richardson paid tribute to Merritt.
“Nathan grew up, and still lives, in Redfern, and he is a true South Sydney man,” Mr Richardson said.
“He has grown into a wonderful role model for people in the South Sydney district, an even better father to his five kids and provider to his family, and he is regarded by everyone connected to the Club as one of our modern day legends.
“To have his name at the top of the list for try scorers at this Club is a remarkable effort, especially considering some of the team’s performances during the early years of his career.
“The work he has done with Souths Cares is a testament to his commitment to the people of South Sydney, and we know the work he will do with his newly-formed Foundation will be a success for everyone he connects with. We wish him and his family every success in the future.”
Rabbitohs Chairman Nicholas Pappas also praised Merritt’s efforts for his Club and community.
“Nathan has become one of the Club’s favourite sons, not only for his efforts on the field or his loyalty to the Club over many years, but for the tireless work he conducts in the community of Redfern and the South Sydney district as a whole.
“Nathan has performed at the highest level for over a decade much to the delight of our Members, but his dedication to his people is second-to-none, and as a Club we fully support his decision to establish his own Foundation, and we look forward to working alongside him to help make a difference to the lives of the people of South Sydney.”
Rabbitohs Head Coach Michael Maguire said Merritt has been a huge part of the Rabbitohs squad during his time at the Club.
“I’ve had the pleasure of watching the performances of Nathan Merritt for the last 13 years, and over the past three years in my time at the Club I’ve seen him grow to become one of the leaders amongst the playing group,” Coach Maguire said.
“He’s been a great help with the young brigade of players we have coming through, he’s our all-time greatest try scorer and he loves the Rabbitohs and areas like Redfern. That shines through in his efforts for the Club day-in and day-out.
“I’m sure our fans have wonderful memories of seeing him tear up the sideline or slicing through the middle for another try, and he will have a similar impact off the field when he moves into the next phase of his life at the end of the season.
“Nathan will always be a part of this Club, and we look forward to working with him into the future.”
Name: Nathan Merritt
Date of Birth: 26 May 1983
Place of Birth: Sydney, NSW
Junior Club: Alexandria Rovers
NRL Games: 237 (218 for the Rabbitohs)
NRL Points: 695 (from 154 tries, 39 goals and one field goal)
Rabbitohs Points: 653 (from 146 tries, 34 goals and one field goal)
NRL Debut: Rabbitohs vs Warriors, Ericsson Stadium, 12 May 2002 (Rd 9)
Other Clubs: Sharks (2004-05)
One game for NSW State of Origin (2013);
Two games for City Origin (2011, 2013);
Three games for Indigenous All Stars (2010-12);
Two games for Prime Minister’s XIII (2006, 2011)
All-time top try scorer in South Sydney Rabbitohs history (146 tries)
Second on all-time list of first grade games for South Sydney Rabbitohs (218 games)
Dally M Top Try Scorer of the Year (2006, 2011)
Dally M Headline Moment of the Year (2009)
George Piggins Medallist for Rabbitohs Best and Fairest (2011)
Jack Rayner Players’ Player Award for the Rabbitohs (2006, 2008)
Roy Asotasi Members’ Choice Award for the Rabbitohs (2009)
Supporters’ Choice Award for the Rabbitohs (2006)
The Burrow Player of the Year (2006, 2009)