Panthers lock Trent Merrin has vowed to repay the faith shown by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, conceding that he thought his NRL form in recent weeks didn't warrant selection for next Friday's Test against New Zealand in Canberra.
Merrin's Panthers could sit as low as 15th by the time Round 9 is completed and with a history of representative heartbreak the 27-year-old wasn't sure whether his form at last year's Four Nations tournament would hold up at the selection table.
Omitted from the New South Wales team for Game Three Origin deciders in both 2011 and 2012, Merrin knows the pain of the selectors' axe all too well and told NRL.com that given those disappointments he is indebted to Meninga for sticking by him.
"It's awesome; it's incredible to be honest," Merrin said.
"He's a great coach and for him to show that faith... I probably didn't deserve it the last few weeks and for him to show that faith is a credit to him and it's something I'll remember.
"I owe him a favour but it just goes to show how loyal he is as a coach."
The Panthers' struggles were thought by many to cruel Merrin's chances but despite the looming representative season the six-time Test rep says he never lost focus from trying to drag Penrith back into the winner's circle, their losing streak stretching to five on the back of their 32-18 loss to Brisbane on Friday night.
"I'm really honoured to put that green and gold on again. It's always a jersey you want to be a part of and you hold it close to your heart but to be honest my main focus has been this team," said Merrin.
"It's been a tough few weeks and it's been my full focus. It was great to be named in that team but my main focus was the Panthers.
"It would have been the icing on the cake if we'd got the win but we've got a long way to go here.
"The emotions were fully concerned on this team. I can worry about the green and gold now but my full attention and focus and emotions were for the Panthers."
Trailing 28-0 through 60 minutes on Thursday night it was Merrin who finally cracked the Brisbane defence, twisting and turning in a tackle close to the line before reaching out to score.
It sparked an eight-minute three-try scoring spree that momentarily turned a one-sided hiding into a genuine contest and Merirn is hopeful that the pre-season premiership fancies discovered something they can carry forward after the Representative Round is completed.
"That last 20 minutes was fantastic; if we applied that pressure to them through the whole game we might have been the better team," Merrin said.
"We're learning a lot about each other and the team. We're hanging in there and we'll push through to the other end and be better for it.
"Until we do that we've just got to keep working hard and look at those little things that we're missing out on and get on top of those."
This article first appeared on NRL.com