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Learning from the best

Ryan Davidson, AFL Media  January 30, 2018 12:20 PM

Nat Fyfe attempts to tackle Zach Merrett in Round 23 against Fremantle.

Nat Fyfe attempts to tackle Zach Merrett in Round 23 against Fremantle.

ESSENDON star Zach Merrett spent the off-season soaking up lessons in professionalism from influences as disparate as a Fremantle superstar and an NFL team in a bid to continue his rapid rise as a footballer.

After only four years in the AFL, the 22-year-old has already won a club best and fairest and earned All Australian honours on his way to becoming one of Bombers' most important players.

Selected to represent Australia during the Virgin Australia International Rules Series against Ireland in November, Merrett was like a sponge around his more credentialed teammates.

"I spent a lot of time with Nat Fyfe, because he sat next to me most of the time," Merrett told SEN radio on Tuesday.

"To pick his brain and work out how he goes about it was great, but I certainly made sure I sat there and didn't say too much.

"(I learnt) about his professionalism and how dedicated he is inside and outside the club to make sure his body is 100 per cent ready to play every week.

"I listened to the way (Joel) Selwood and Paddy (Dangerfield) went about their work and tried to take in as much as I could."

Merrett also used a holiday to the United States as a study tour when he was embedded with the NFL's Cleveland Browns to get a better understanding of how other professional sports tick.

"I was lucky enough through some great contacts to get to the Cleveland Browns, and although they're 0-16, it was great to see how they go about their business and the amount of money that is pumped through those franchises," Merrett said.

"It was a really good experience over there."

With expectation rising around Essendon after they returned to the finals last for the first time since 2014 and recruited strongly in the off-season, Merrett believes winning at least one final this September should be considered a pass mark for John Worsfold's men.

And with the hype around his own game growing by the year, Merrett is embracing the attention that comes with being one the competition's best players.

"I guess you've got to enjoy (the attention) that comes with the territory, and I'm ready for that and just do my best for the team," he said.

"It's not just about me just getting the ball, but I'm ready for that."