My boy Zach.
I’ve been watching the lad since he made his debut way back in 2014, and I’ve been bloody excited by what I’ve seen. Still only 24, Zach will win a brownlow before his time in AFL is up – mark my words.
I only hope he can add a Norm Smith medal in a winning side to that list – as well as many more seasons of rock solid, premium Supercoach output. Of course.
But can he?
Merrett had a down year last year after a mixture of a slow start due to concussion and the dreaded tag combined to give him a tough run at the footy.
It shows in his raw numbers, too – Merrett averaged a smidge under 30 disposals a game in 2016 and 2017, but fell back to averaging 26 last year.
What I find more concerning was that for the first time in his career, his kick-to-handball ratio fell below 1 – he averaged 12.8 kicks per game and 14.1 handballs. For someone will skills as silky smooth as Merrett, that’s detrimental to both his scoring and to Essendon’s chances of winning.
While he showed in the back half of the season he was able to deal with the tag better, there are still some worrying numbers about his decline since his break-out in 2016.
Merrett’s ceiling has dropped
*including two injury affected games
When Merrett burst into the realm of the ultra-premium (back when he still had forward eligibility, no less), he was the top dog in a depleted Essendon midfield.
Through some freak of nature, 12 of Essendon’s best players were all ruled out of the season through freak year-long injuries that we definitely don’t talk about ever, and Merrett stood tall among top-ups and rookies.
He had a phenomenal 10 scores above 120, regularly cracking 140.
Last year, his highest score was 130. That’s not a lot from someone you want to slot in at M4 for $544,800. So what’s the go, Patch? Why are you recommending someone on the decline?
Funny you should ask – let me introduce you to my good friend Dylan Shiel. He is not a good Supercoach selection on his own. He might be value, he might average 100, but nah. There are better options.
What I am intrigued by is the affect Shiel’s arrival will have on Merrett.
My money’s on Shiel drawing some of the tag off Merrett. I have no doubt Shiel will cop heavy attention in some games, but I also don’t think clubs will stick with him all season. I don’t think he’s the danger man – that tag belongs to Merrett.
He’s deadly by foot, tackles like a man possessed and is the hearthrob of both the Essendon midfield, and my life. Clubs should – and will – still tag him.
Which leaves me in the peculiar position of having talked myself into doubting my first player picked. Has he learned how to deal with the tag? How long will Shiel steal the spotlight for? How much will missing three weeks of the preseason with an ankle complaint affect him?
Can I justify selecting a player without the numbers to back it up? Just Dennis Denuto’s “vibe of the thing”?
Ah, to hell with it. He’s in.