Essendon Captain Zach Merrett is revelling in his second season of skippering alongside Senior Coach Brad Scott.

Despite not yet being officially named as Captain for 2024, one would assume the four-time reigning Crichton medallist will be leading his troops out of the race for the second season in-a-row.

It’s an honour and role which he’s now assimilated into his footballing life and Merrett says the whirlwind experience of becoming Captain last year is well and truly behind him.

“I felt like last year it was a bit of rush with the Captaincy announced before round one and all the new and exciting firsts that came up with being a Captain at such a big club,” Merrett said.

“So now I feel a little more at ease, I feel like I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into my teammates as well.

“I love coming into the club, the environment Brad (Scott) is creating with me and everyone involved is super exciting and I think to be honest, everyone is jumping out of bed to get to the club to get better.”


One area Merrett and the Bombers playing group are lasered in on is the side’s collective push to improve its team defence.

After conceding 30 points less in 2023 than their previous season in a gradual improvement, Merrett knows the Dons must become a tighter defensive team to continue their push for finals.

"It's been a constant chat, the fans are probably sick of hearing we need to work on our defence, because we do," Merrett said.

"I think we improved from 18th to 15th, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but I think we were able to slow teams down a lot more, but they were still able to get through us and score when they went forward.

"We need to keep bridging that gap. It doesn't mean we need to be No.1, but we certainly need to bring that gap down to be able to balance our full game plan.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: Zach Merrett of the Bombers poses for a photograph during the Essendon Bombers 2024 Official Team Photo Day at the NEC Hangar on February 13, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)

The side’s first practice match is slated for next Friday, February 23 against St Kilda and Merrett admits the bitter end to 2023 has helped spur on the playing group this pre-season.

With pride on the line to avenge a missed finals opportunity last season, Merrett says the playing group are as hungry as ever to get the Bombers back into September action.

"I think players are sick of losing. The competition's so tight, we know a percentage here and there could be the difference between making finals, making the top four or the bottom four," Merrett said.

"We realised that late in the year when we just got over the two bottom teams in the comp, we really struggled to get those four points. Then we got blown away by some top teams.

"Hopefully guys improving individually, putting on size or getting better, more fitter, understand the game more, will allow coaches to pull more triggers in round one when we put it all together."