The Christmas break has already come too soon for Zach Merrett’s liking.  

With the first block of pre-season training wrapping up, the Bombers’ Captain has found himself excited by the club integrating its incoming talent and building on existing foundations set in 2023. 

The arrivals of new talent such as Nate Caddy and Archie Roberts headlined the Dons’ draft period, also strengthening their depth around the ground with the acquisitions of Ben McKay and Jade Gresham via free agency. 

Addressing the media at the club’s inaugural Member Fest last week, Merrett said the blend of new faces was bringing more excitement to an already motivated playing group.


“You’re always super motivated to get back fitter and stronger and connect with your teammates to try and get better,” Merrett said. 

“The way we finished last year wasn’t ideal but to get four free agents (and trades) and four highly talented kids in the door it brings a level of excitement, accompanying that with some great staff that we’ve brought in as well. 

“It feels like we’ve got some really good stability across the board with fresh ideas (and) fresh faces.”  

Merrett believes another full pre-season has also benefitted Senior Coach Brad Scott, who is now in a better position to develop the side after 12 months at the helm. 

Paired with the influx of on-field recruits, Merrett is firm on the Bombers’ ability to evolve throughout the remainder of the pre-season period.


“Although (Scott) came in (last year), everything else was set in stone so he couldn’t really pull many triggers in the program,” Merrett said. 

“I feel like he’s now been able to assess where we sit as a club on and off-field, make decisions off that and keep moving towards a world-class department.  

“We’ll need to keep evolving and improving our game plan. Bringing in (guys like) McKay and Gresham changes what we’ve had in the past, so I think we’ll have to be pretty nimble and proactive around how we play. 

“I’m buzzing to keep training, Christmas has come a little too fast but we’ll keep evolving for sure.”  

The energy of Caddy and Roberts in their first two months with the club has been another positive for the skipper, who sees the duo as enticing long-term prospects for the side. 

In the case of Caddy, Merrett has taken to the 18-year-old’s tenacity, encouraging his bull-at-a-gate approach to training sessions. 


“(Nate)’s going to be one of those guys that we love playing with, but fans are going to really enjoy watching,” Merrett said. 

“Long-term, we’re super excited by him. It’s not my personality to slow down, I love his energy and his attitude, he wants to make an impression and he’s got his sights on round one. He wants to be a good player and wants to be an Essendon player long-term. 

“It’s not only him, Archie (Roberts) slipping in the draft was a great get and looking at the way he’s training with his kicking and running, he’s going to add a dimension off half-back. 

“We’ve got to start getting used to the nuances of players, Gresham’s a super smart player we haven’t had in that mould for a long time, so I’m loving watching him train as well.” 

Merrett is also bullish on the potential of existing talents such as Elijah Tsatas and Sam Durham, who have returned in strong physical shape. 

With the Bombers prepared for a strong number of players to put their hand up for midfield minutes, Merrett wants the side to stay flexible and compensate the development of its young players as best as possible.


“We’re going to have to give and take. We’ve got six or eight guys now that we want to build to be elite players and give them space to grow (through the midfield),” Merrett said. 

“In a way it’s (Tsatas’) first year, given he only played a handful of games off a pretty serious knee injury, he feels like a new recruit. He’s had 12-14 months in the gym to mature his body, he looks a lot stronger and put on five or six kilograms, you can see it across his whole body. 

“I’m bullish, but I’m super excited on what Durham has returned like, Nic Martin’s flexibility, Ben Hobbs looks like a mature body now as well. We’re trying to build out a really sustainable group that can play and perform week-in, week-out and be really durable. 

“We’ve got a lot of options, but it’s working at the right time to give development and make sure that we’re running out there every weekend to win games of footy.”