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Merritt's Souths loyalty justified
Joe Barton
19:53 AEST Thu Sep 20 2012

As Michael Maguire puts it, Nathan Merritt is South Sydney.

For the local junior who grew up on the Block and whose earliest childhood memories involved jumping the fence at Redfern Oval and kicking the footy with his cousins, seeing the red and green competing deep in the finals means as much as it does to every Rabbitohs fan who has waited 41 years for a 21st premiership.

Two weeks ago Merritt played in his first finals match of a distinguished 11-year career - an honour, he says, and a gift for his three kids.

"It took me 199 games to get there," Merritt laughs.

"It's a good opportunity for my kids, to watch Souths play and compete in semi-finals.

"When I was a kid like that I didn't have the opportunity to see Souths contending in any finals series.

"We were always at the bottom of the ladder. It's great to see my kids love supporting the Rabbitohs.

"And they finally get to see the Rabbitohs play in the semis ... they don't know how good they've got it."

Merritt missed last week's win over Canberra, just as he missed South Sydney's previous foray into finals football in 2007, through injury and he's never played in a winning finals team.

He has been a Rabbitoh for all but two seasons, when he called Cronulla home, but says his support of the team never wavered.

Just like his three kids Jalen, Jade and Nakeeya, Merritt rode out the tough times and ignored the taunts in the schoolyard.

"Everyone had that tough journey through their childhood following Souths," he explained.

"No one really had much to cheer about but it was always good to go out and support the team.

"(But) I just the love of the club. I've loved the club ever since I was a kid.

"I spent two seasons in Cronulla but I came back here. I was very glad I was able to come back here and resurrect my career here."

Like Merritt did as a youngster, eight-year-old Jalen can be found practicing his chip and chase with his cousins on Redfern Oval after most training sessions - except he doesn't have to jump the fence to get in like his old man used to.

"The ground wasn't too flashy then," Merritt said.

"The gate used to be open or we'd jump the fence and play footy in the in-goal areas with all the cousins and watch first grade train.

"I used to love watching Mario (Fenech) and Tricky Trindall.

"(Jalen) just walks in there now and pretty much every day after training I see him on the field when I'm leaving the ground.

"He's over here with his cousins playing footy. He's doing the same thing as me."