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More than a game

BTV: Zach Merrett Media Conference - May 10 Zach Merrett spoke to the media.

Crichton Medal winner Zach Merrett says Saturday’s game against Geelong is about more than just two sides trying to get back on the winners list.

The clash between the Bombers and the Cats is part of the Country Festival – a series of events aimed at recognising the contribution those living on the land make to the state.

Ahead of the first bounce, Yarra Park will be transformed into a celebration of country life.

Farm animals, fresh produce, machinery and chart topping country singers will provide something for everyone.

There will also be a curtain raiser played on the MCG between Victoria’s top ranked country leagues.

“We’re very fortunate to have had Kevin Sheedy come through the place, to be there about 28 years and bring the Dreamtime game and ANZAC Day game – we’re very fortunate to play on those days,” Merrett said.

“To play in front on 90,000 people is such a special feeling individually, but what it signifies with those days is much bigger than football itself.

“The more important part is the interleague game between Geelong and Mornington … [and] the Festival outside the ground means it’s a little more special than just us playing. I’m looking forward to watching the local teams.”

Merrett grew up in Cobden, a town 200kms southwest of Melbourne.

“Coming from the country I used to watch on TV every weekend and just wanted to be involved in it [AFL],” he said.

“For two big clubs to get involved and support the country people, it’s something I hold very dear to my [heart] … I’m looking forward to playing against Geelong on Saturday night.”

After a dominant season last year culminating in his best and fairest win, Merrett has continued his excellent form.

He has had the second most kicks in the competition and is ranked fourth for disposals, but he said the win/loss ratio is what he’s most focused on.

“I judge it off team success, so to be 3-4 I’m not overly happy at the moment,” Merrett said.

“I’m trying to do my bit for the team and drag guys along with me … it’s no fun after the siren no matter how you play if you lose."

The Bombers will be looking to rebound after two straight losses when they take on the Cats on Saturday night. 

The team could be boosted by the return of Jobe Watson, who was rested last week.

"He's fresh, he's buzzing around the place and I haven't seen him so energetic," Merrett said.

"A few walks on the beach with his dogs and his girlfriend and he's ready to go.

"It will be a tough call for 'Woosha' to leave him out; a guy who's got so much experience and I think he's still playing some fantastic footy.

"He was a bit quiet against Melbourne but I'm sure he'll bounce back on Saturday night."

Essendon Football Club is proud to support the tireless work of our volunteer firefighters throughout regional Victoria, with the auction of the player worn guernseys from the 2017 Powercor Country Festival Game.

The funds raised from the auction of these specially designed Country Festival guernseys will go towards supporting the CFA Mental Awareness effort.

Retail guernseys can be purchased here.