On Friday at the Group 11 presentation night Macquarie’s Jai Merritt was awarded the Jim Lang Memorial trophy as the under 18s player of the year.
On Sunday he played a starring role as the Raiders produced a performance as close to perfect as possible on grand final day.
Macquarie downed Forbes 34-6 but after so much success the most special thing for Merritt was sharing the moment with players he’s grown up alongside.
“It means a lot to me and my family. I put a lot of hard work in pre-season and it’s finally paid off,” he said.
“This is awesome. I’ve played with Kane McDermott, Logan Merritt my cousin and a few others since I was seven and this is our third premiership since we were 10 and it means a lot to me to play with my best mates.
“We’re really close, they’re like my brothers.”
Merritt captained the Raiders in 2017, shouldering more responsibility in a team loaded with talent.
But pressure meant little to number seven, who put his stamp on every big moment in the finals series.
He spoke in the lead-up to the decider for the need to play for the full 60 minutes and his side did that, saving their best performance for the biggest day of the season.
“We went in half time confident and the first message was to come out and stick to our game plan because we couldn't drop off for a minute and we did that and finished off with a really good result,” he said.