Dean Young locks in Trent Merrin

RUGBY LEAGUE

Dean Young is the first to accept his greenness in coaching, but the 29-year-old is adamant about who would succeed him in retirement if he were in Steve Price's shoes.

"Pricey's got a couple of options there but if I was coaching I'd be putting Trent Merrin in at lock," Young said.

Young, who called time on his decorated career earlier this year, lavished praise on Merrin yesterday, arguing a move to lock would boost the 23-year-old's stocks significantly.

"He played out of his skin last year and took a massive step forward, and I can only see him getting better and better," Young said.

"He works so hard. All the boys train hard but away from the field, Mez makes a lot of sacrifices with his diet and stuff that people don't know about.

"That's why he's the player he is and that's why he's just going to keep getting better and better - because he knows that he's got to sacrifice to get to where he wants to get to."

Not surprisingly, Price could be hatching the same plan.

Merrin was a standout performer in the Dragons' pack this year, filling a huge void left by Michael Weyman's season-ending ACL injury in round 10.

The NSW prop has made no secret of the fact he hopes to emulate the playing styles of Paul Gallen and Greg Bird and become an 80-minute player.

With the Dragons recruiting and retaining some imposing forwards during the off-season, Young believes Merrin should naturally progress to No 13.

"You've now got Jack de Belin, Dan Hunt, Michael Weyman and Leeson Ah Mau playing up front, and I think Trent Merrin can afford to play that lock role," Young said.

"You're playing down the middle third anyway, Mez has dropped a bit of weight, his footwork's unbelievable and he's got an offload and a pretty long pass.

"He's got a bright future ahead of him and I'd be playing him at lock."

Merrin's ability to play 80 minutes would essentially gift Price an extra prop in the side's rotation, while maintaining the likely second-row combination of Ben Creagh and Bronson Harrison.

Merrin said yesterday he would relish an opportunity to succeed Young, an ambition reaffirmed by the fact he has been improving his diet and training.

"Knowing that we've lost players like Dean Young and Ben Hornby, it gives me some incentive to work harder and try and push for a stronger season," Merrin said.

"I've kept a close eye on what I'm eating and what helps me more on the field. It's more a coming of age than anything else.

"It [lock] would be something that I'm looking at, trying to get more game time and pushing for something like that.

"There's some big shoes to fill there with Deano gone but I think the team's looking at me and showing some faith with me in that sort of area."

Young, who was confirmed as the Illawarra Steelers SG Ball coach this week, believes next year's first grade pack will be a lot stronger.

"There's a lot of blokes pushing for spots and they've got a lot of competition all over the forward pack so no one's really safe," he said.

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