It was one of the free agency stories of the year, but superstar All-Australian Zach Merrett has put doubts about his future to rest, re-committing to the club he was drafted by in 2013.
His six year deal will see the leadership group midfielder stay in the red and black until at least 2027, when he turns 32.
Speaking to the media on Friday morning, Merrett admitted that he had given his impending free agency decision a lot of thought over the last six months, but he was always leaning towards staying at the Dons.
“Deep down I feel like since coming back in November I was always leaning towards staying, but I think ultimately I probably made my mind up around the time I did the article post the Giants game”, Merrett admitted.
“I felt like we had a few close losses but it felt like everything we were trying to implement the last three to six months was starting to come out.
“Following that we had a few wins, and everyone probably thought I made up my mind then, but it was sort of pre-that three week block where I felt like it was starting to turn, and it was really exciting.”
That GWS loss by two points in round eight was the latest in a string of tight losses for Ben Rutten’s men up until that point. Losing to Hawthorn by one point, Sydney by three and finally Carlton by 16 in the week prior was a run of ‘almost’ games.
Merrett wasn’t buying into the results, but was instead focused on the growth of the group and ‘layers to success’ that he could see in front of him at training and during games.
“I think there’s a lot of layers to success, it’s not just winning premierships, which ideally I’d love to do and we want to do,” Merrett said.
“There’s a lot of layers of success underneath that as well, and to see the emergence of Coxy (Nik Cox) and Perko (Archie Perkins) as first year players has been great.
“For me, the most exciting part has been the growth internally of players like (Jayden) Laverde, Kyle (Langford), Darcy Parish is an obvious one, Nick Hind, Mason Redman. Guys that have been on our list for a little bit now, and are starting to capture some form or play closer to their potential.
“I think it’s reflective of the environment and the program which has been created over the past six months, which has been very strong.”
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He also made sure to credit first year head coach Ben Rutten, who has shifted the culture at Bomberland. In his six months at the helm, ‘Truck’ was sought complete buy-in of the playing group into a blue collar approach to football.
The group has responded well, and it has been a massive reason for Merrett committing his future to the club.
“The biggest point of difference or the biggest change in things has been Truck taking over”, Merrett stated.
“His clarity around what he expects what he expects and wants from the club combined with Mahns (head of football Josh Mahoney) and Adrian’s (Dodoro) strategy combines for a great strategy of people, characters and personalities that’s going to allow us as a group and a club moving forward to be really consistent and hopefully give us the best chance of success on the field as well.”
As for his partner in the midfield Darcy Parish, Merrett will let him come to his own decision with his contract at the Bombers ending in 2021.
“I’ll let him make his own mind up.
“He’s been a super player though, and someone that I’d love to play with now for another six to eight years. We’re a pretty good combination there as teammates. I think he’s someone that’s only going to keep blossoming as a player now, he’s starting to play more consistently in that midfield group.
“I might give him a nudge or two moving forward but I’ll let him make his own mind up.”
Together, the pair is averaging 62.5 disposals per game and will both be in All-Australian consideration at the end of the season.
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