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Nathan Merritt at Blues training Merritt at Blues training-1371561238_n.jpg

Daley confident with Merritt NSW selection

Nathan Merritt at Blues training

It's taken him more than 10 years to make a State of Origin team and no-one is more pleased to see Nathan Merritt in a NSW shirt than Blues coach Laurie Daley.
Daley confident with Merritt NSW selection
by AAP

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, June 18 AAP - It's taken him more than 10 years to make a State of Origin team and no-one is more pleased to see Nathan Merritt in a NSW shirt than Blues coach Laurie Daley.

The South Sydney winger will make his debut next Wednesday in the cauldron-like Suncorp Stadium after being named as the replacement for the disgraced Blake Ferguson who was stood down after being charged with indecent assault.

Merritt's selection was a much-needed feel-good story for the Blues, who lost prop James Tamou last week after his arrest for high-range drink-driving when unlicensed in Townsville.

With 148 tries in 213 NRL appearances, spent mostly at Souths where he debuted in 2002, and a brief spell at Cronulla in 2004-05, NSW selectors have taken some convincing of his ability.

However, Daley, who has previously coached the 30-year-old in the NRL indigenous side, is fully confident he'll succeed.

"He's waited all his life for this Nath and he'll be champing at the bit to get out there and run around," Daley said.

"He's deserved it through performances but he won't let anyone down.

"He's a guy that offers you something a little bit different. He's just a professional.

"At Origin level you need professionals and if you do your job you will have a good game."

Daley admits it's been a hectic time since the team met up in camp in Coogee on Monday morning and had no idea of the storm that was about to greet him when he arrived.

"The first I knew about it was when our media manager said that there may be a bit of drama," he said.

"But it's part of the job I suppose. It's not ideal but I only worry about what I can control and that's this group of players."

Daley had taken a gamble in selecting the troubled Ferguson and it looked to have paid off when he produced a strong performance on debut in game one earlier this month.

The Canberra star will now appear in court on July 16 to fight an indecent assault charge following an alleged incident at a Cronulla bar on Sunday when he was out with former Raiders teammate and close friend Josh Dugan.

Despite the disruption and negative press that Ferguson has brought on the Blues, Daley refused to condemn him and said he would continue to give him every possible support.

"Blake's very remorseful, more so about the fact that he was out," he said.

"We didn't speak about whether there was an incident or not, more so about alcohol.

"For me it's about trying to support him as much as I possibly can and see where we end up with him.

"He does need support. It's a serious allegation.

"But he's someone that's part of our group and someone we really need to support because were not sure what's happened.

"No one knows too much about it."

Daley also said he didn't feel the need to speak to Dugan about being out as the St George Illawarra fullback did nothing wrong.

"I didn't have to speak to Duges, he was out having a night out," Daley said.

"Josh has done nothing wrong, as far as I'm concerned he's okay."

The 44-year-old also confirmed there would be a bonding session for the team on Tuesday night, but insisted it would be a very low-key affair.

"We're not going to can it, but I can assure you it'll be pretty quiet," he said.

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