Leeds coach Richard Agar has confirmed that captain Trent Merrin is exploring a potential move back to Australia: but that he does so with the club’s full blessing.
Merrin briefly returned to Australia midway through the 2019 season following a personal issue, and speculation over his long-term future at the club materialised again over the weekend, with reports suggesting the Kangaroos international was already in talks over a switch back to the NRL.
Agar has confirmed that is the case – and while he insisted the door is not fully shut on Merrin’s Leeds future, if he does source a deal back home, the club will support him in doing so.
“There’s a strong part of him that wants to come back, but sometimes there are some overriding family situations that are far more important than rugby league,” Agar said.
“I must emphasise the strong relationship that we’ve got with Trent. Everyone is aware that midway through the season, he had to go back home for a personal issue.. a tragedy, if you like. That’s created a need for him to be a bit closer to home at times.
“Since I came in as coach and he became captain, we’ve built up a terrific relationship. His performances on-field were outstanding but with the family issues he’s got, we’ve given him the opportunity to have a look and see if he can source a deal that suits him to be a bit closer to home.”
Agar also admitted there is a deadline on Merrin’s final decision, saying: “We’ve put a timescale on that, and told him that if he sources a deal we need to be across it. But there is a line in the sand where we both agree that once he’s had a look, if it’s not right then he will come back. If something happens and he needs to stay at home, he will do so with our full support. At no point are there any sinister, underlying motives to this: we totally understand his situation.”
Agar also confirmed that Leeds are sourcing possible replacements in Australia should Merrin decide to stay in the NRL. He said: “I went out there for a week and caught up with coaches, recruitment managers and agents and we’ve got in front of a couple of players in case the situation unravels how it is.
“I’m not going to tell you who they are but I’m doing that out of respect because some of those players are under contract and not out there on the open market.”