LEEDS RHINOS head coach Richard Agar says there is nothing “sinister” about the Trent Merrin situation and their influential captain has their blessing to look for a new club in the NRL.
The former Australia loose forward, 29, has just completed the first season of a four-year deal at Emerald Headingley but has been given permission to explore options back home on compassionate grounds.
Merrin, who arrived from Penrith Panthers as a ‘marquee’ signing, has been given a deadline to sort a move and could yet still return to play on in 2020.
Agar explained: “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.
“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.
“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.”
Salford Red Devils’ Australia-born half-back Jackson Hastings has proved he qualifies for Great Britain – and had confirmation he is eligible to play for the Lions later this month if selected. The 23-year-old was not included in the initial squad due to red tape.