Wednesday 25 August 2010

Modest young Southport key forward Ben Merrett has achieved a lot in the QAFL State league competition at the age of 22.

Two premierships and senior State representation are high on a list which has 100 games for the Sharks added to it in the qualifying final against Morningside at Southport on Sunday.

It is appropriate that the milestone should be against the Panthers, because it was against the same opponent that brought Merrett’s career highlight.

Merrett will never forget 10 inspired minutes in the final quarter of the 2008 grand final at Carrara, when he won a number of telling possessions in the midfield, set up teammate David Cameron with a spearing 50 metre pass and goalled on the run himself from a similar distance.

It helped turn a 22-point deficit 12 minutes into that remarkable fourth term into a euphoric eight-point victory.

“That was the highlight – I had never kicked the ball 50 metres in my life,” Merrett joked. “They all call me toe-poke down here. Whenever they call me that at training I stuff up my kick.

“Broc McCauley and I were in the ruck that day and we just linked up a few of the transfers from defence.

“The first premiership  (in 2006) wasn’t as special because I was on the bench most of the time. But to come from behind against Morningside, you couldn’t have dreamed of anything better.”

Merrett vividly remembers his first game, played under legendary Sharks coach Norm Dare, in the opening round of 2005 at Broadbeach.

“It was a pretty big rivalry and we lost by three or four points – I think it was Jayson Pate ran into an open goal and hit the post in the last minute,” he said.

His first goal also came courtesy of a memorable source.

“The Dimattina brothers (Paul and Andrew) were in the team and one of them fed me a handball out of a pack and yelled ‘just kick the goal’.”

Still aged just 17, Merrett played the first two games in the seniors but rolled an ankle and spent the remainder of the year in the reserves.

Despite his youth, he was used as a pinch-hitting ruckman for much of the next two seasons.

“I don’t mind it around the ground because it’s just like being another onballers and I don’t mind the boundary throw-ins. I’m not so sure about the centre bounces. We played against the Lions at Carrara one day and I rucked against Beau McDonald – I didn’t enjoy that game!

Merrett always wanted to play at centre-half-forward and has made the position his own this year.

He was happy with his start to the season, which was good enough to earn his first ever senior Queensland jumper against Tasmania in June, but feels he has ‘faded a bit’ since then.

While he was not a big possession winner in the State game, the coaching staff were delighted with his selflessness to run all day and leave spaces for the big-name forwards behind him, which helped the Maroons thump Tasmania.  

His effort was no surprise given that he had twice starred at centre-half-forward for the Queensland Under 21s against the Victorian Amateurs equivalent in 2007 and 2008.

“The 21s was great because I never expected to play at that level – I had a bit of a purple patch there,” he said. “I got to training (with the open team) and looked around and thought ‘I’ve got to be close to the bottom of the line here’,” he said.

“It was a real thrill just starting on the ground and it was great to have a win for your home State on your home ground.”

Merrett, who played 150 games for the Surfers Paradise juniors before crossing to Southport, said the 100-game milestone had ‘snuck up’ on him.

“It’s a good achievement to get, especially at the Sharks. Before I went there I knew it would be a hard team to get into,” he said. “But all I really want from the game is a win.”

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