The Macquarie Raiders' push for a Peter McDonald Premiership finals spot has received a huge boost with young star Blake Merritt returning home for the back end of the season. Having played for the Raiders his whole life, Merritt departed prior to the season heading down to Sydney to join the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs' Jersey Flegg (under 20s) squad. Playing his first game for the Raiders in 2023 last weekend at Lithgow, Merritt is happy to be back home after months away from his loved ones. "It's good to be home, it's been nice to spend time with my family and friends which helps a lot," he said. The Bulldogs under 20s are one of the best sides in the competition, currently sitting second behind the Sydney Roosters. It's the Belmore-based club's strong junior base and wealth of talent which Merritt said led to his return to the Central West. "It was really good, I really enjoyed my time down there and I'm heading back in November for pre-season," he said. "I'm keen to give it another crack, I was playing a bit of Ron Massey Cup down there because our Jersey Flegg side was going so good. "I didn't really get a chance because there were a few older boys in key positions, they thought it would be best if I came home and spent some time with family before heading back later this year." READ ALSO: It's not uncommon for young stars to return home in the competition either, Forbes' Charlie Lennon did so last season and helped the Magpies on their way to the premiership. Fortunately, Merritt is still eligible to play Jersey Flegg next year and will return in November for pre-season training. The opportunity to play against men every week and in one of the toughest competitions in Country Rugby League was a big lure for Merritt, with his club agreeing. "They thought it is a better and harder competition which can roughen me up I guess," he said. "It should help the transition down there so I can play Flegg." The Raiders will be back at home on Sunday, hosting Bathurst St Pat's in yet another crossover round of the competition. Capable of playing in the halves and at fullback, Merritt isn't certain of where he will lineup for the rest of the year but just wants to do his part. "Fingers crossed we can start winning a few games and turn the back end of the season around," he said. "I've been training a bit at halves and fullback so I'm not quite sure which of those positions." Sunday's match will kick off at 2pm. Reading this on mobile web? Download our news app. It's faster, easier to read and we'll send you alerts for breaking news as it happens.Download in the Apple Store or Google Play.