DRAGONS - RUGBY LEAGUE
He says his Dragons teammates will "man up" in a bid to save a season in freefall - and Trent Merrin is just as confident the off-field problems plaguing NSW won't be a problem come Origin I.
A near certainty to be included in Laurie Daley's squad for the Suncorp Stadium opener on May 28, Merrin will at least have a distraction as St George Illawarra lick their wounds during the bye.
The Blues' campaign has already been hit by drama before it officially kicked off - halfback Mitchell Pearce was stood down from the Roosters over an incident outside a Kings Cross nightspot.
It got worse with coach Laurie Daley accusing top-rating broadcaster Ray Hadley of destabilising his side after Blues assistant Matt Parish formed a relationship with Hadley's estranged wife, Suzanne.
Quizzed on whether the drama would be distraction during camp at Coffs Harbour, Merrin said: "It [negative headlines] has happened the past few years and we're mature enough to just worry about our own game and mentally prepare ourselves.
"It does shake the boat a little bit but we've been through those times before and come out the other side. We've got a great group there and been rock solid and that's how we'll approach it."
Daley is due to pick up the pieces of a horror month on the injury and suspension front for NSW when the side is named on Tuesday.
The fleet-footed Merrin, who only played in his first Origin decider last year, said regardless of who was selected, he was confident that the Blues could buck Queensland's eight-year reign.
"It's been coming the last two years, but it's just the final few minutes we need to knock off," he said.
"We've definitely got a solid group. There's a lot of love and compassion, a great coaching staff and a great state behind us.
"We've been working towards it for the last few years, it's just about taking that next step now."
Yet the 24-year-old knows the Dragons are more than a few steps away from turning the corner after a horror month.
Only a week after their coach publicly slammed them as "soft", Merrin urged the under-performing squad to tackle their problems head on.
"Everyone's hurting and everyone's on the same page," he said. "It's very disappointing the way we performed [against Parramatta], but we've just got to be men about it now and cop it on the chin.
"There's no easy way out of this for us; we've just got to man up and take it head on. All the boys have got to stand up and look each other in the eye and be honest about it but I've got total confidence in this team."