Merrill-go-round

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

Brodie Merrill is a top transition player on a team in transition toward the top.

In his first season with the Edmonton Rush, Merrill earned his second consecutive National Lacrosse League transition player of the year award.

"It's a nice honour, for sure," Merrill said Wednesday from Toronto's Hill Academy -- a lacrosse school he manages that was founded by his father.

While Merrill's is the only name on the award in 2010, he said it belongs to all 23 players on the roster.

"I think often these awards are team awards," Merrill said. "Right from the beginning of the year, coach (Derek) Keenan preached to be aggressive in transition and really push the pace of play.

"I think that really complemented my game well."

The assistant captain tied his career-high 17 goals and set a new season best with 36 assists.

A big part of his game included collecting 190 loose balls -- good for second overall in league standings.

"It's much like rebounding in basketball," Merrill said of the secret of gathering 'loosies'."It's about positioning and just kind of focusing on the ball.

"When the ball is loose, a lot of guys focus on the people around them and taking contact, where I just try to focus on the ball."

Merrill is in good company ranked at the top of the best transition players in the league.

"And I think a couple of them are on our team," he added. Along the way, Merrill was helped by fellow transition players Scott Stewart and Chris McElroy, as well as former forward Jimmy Quinlan.

"He won our Unsung Hero award for our team and it was very well deserved," Merrill said of Quinlan's mid-season move to the transition position. "For most of his career he's been strictly an offensive player. He's very athletic, he's a very smart player as well, so he was able to make that transition back to defence very easily.

"He was a big addition to our transition game."

The position was the key area slated for improvement over the off-season. Merrill's addition helped transform the worst team in the league into a contender that finished an overtime goal away from hosting the Champion's Cup.

The Rush doubled their wins from a league-low 5-11 record in 2009, and won their first-ever playoff game against the defending champion Calgary Roughnecks on the road.

It was more than Merrill could ask for after finding out he was headed to the struggling Edmonton franchise.

"It's tough to really expect and I certainly didn't anticipate it," Merrill said. "When you saw some of the guys that Derek brought in like Ryan Ward and Ryan Powell and Gavin Prout, Scott Stewart, there's obviously a lot of turnover from the year before.

"Just knowing those guys from playing with them or against them, you kind of had a sense that we were going to have some success as a team.

"It was exciting for me because I think it was a realistic thing for us to make the playoffs and take a run at it."

Also a former NLL defensive and rookie player of the year, Merrill said the club is ready to put the past behind it.

"I think some people get a little bit fooled by this team because of the organization's past," he said. "Just coming into this team, I knew we could win right away."

With another season of box lacrosse behind him, Merrill will spend the off-season playing field lacrosse with the Toronto Nationals as Major League Lacrosse is set to kick off beginning Sunday in North Carolina.


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