Zac Merritt left Group 11 as one of the best players in bush footy.
Big, strong, light on his feet and boasting a fierce determination to better his opposite number, the then-Forbes bookend helped lift the Magpies to a memorable 2016 first grade premiership triumph, the club's first in 29 years no less.
Merritt is hoping to replicate that sort of form in blue and white this winter.
Speaking on the Get 'Em Onside Podcast, Merritt said he hasn't yet reached his best while playing in Group 10 but can see that changing in 2019, particularly with the arrival of his brother Traie at the club this season.
The youngest of the Merritt boys, Traie was part of the 2016 Magpies premiership win and arrives at St Pat's after playing a leading role in Forbes' 2018 Group 11 title win as well.
Merritt senior says having that family feel around Jack Arrow Oval this season will bring out the best in his game, which is good enough for the ex-Canberra Raiders under 20s premiership winner to earn the 'best prop in Group 10' tag.
"I do," Merritt fired when asked if he feels like his best is yet to come.
"I'm definitely trying to chase that grand final over here.
"That's why i was cheering when Branno (Luke Branighan) got the coaching job.
... there's some real quality teams and real quality players. We'll have to work hard to make the semi-finals.St Pat's coach Luke Branighan.
"We all know what he can do as a coach and as a player. That's a reason I wanted to stay. Good young group coming through and now a good leader."
Branighan joined Merritt for the podcast and said the barnstorming prop was having a tremendous pre-season, although he's now recovering after having his apprendix removed.
Merritt will be fit and firing for St Pat's first game of the season, though, which will be a clash with Orange CYMS at Jack Arrow Oval on April 14.
"There's a lot of talent here. Probably what we lacked last year, I can bring to the club in regards to a game manager … but we've also got some fantastic match winners in Zac and Tim Holman," Branighan added.
"There's half a dozen blokes in their early 20s … very talented players and there's been a great feel.
"It's going to be a tough competition, there's some real quality teams and real quality players. We'll have to work hard to make the semi-finals."
Merritt, though, is confident St Pat's will play in the post-season.
"This year, Branno's leading the way and we're training hard. Depth is there, we'll be top five for sure," Merritt said.
The pair both predicted boom prop Jack Mackey to have a break-out season in what will be a beefed up St Pat's pack in 2019, with Greg Behan, McCoy White and new signing Mickey Hawkings to join Merritt in the middle third of the field.
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