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Fun to watch, fun to play

BTV: Rd 5 | Merrett post-game We spoke to midfielder Zach Merrett after our round five win over the Kangaroos.
It’s an exciting brand of footy for the fans to watch, and pretty exciting out there to play as well.”
Zach Merrett

Essendon star Zach Merrett says the Bombers’ scintillating ball movement that has defined their three-game winning streak is just as fun to play as it is to watch.

48,278 fans squeezed into Marvel Stadium to witness the Dons at their attacking best again on Friday as they thrashed North Melbourne by 58 points in the Kick for the Kids game.

HIGHLIGHTS: Dons defeat Roos in style

The side’s 17 goals made it 54 from their last three outings and Merrett said the team is only just starting to get it together following a disappointing opening fortnight to the season.

“I think we’re starting to build towards a four-quarter performance,” Merrett said post-match.

“I think we’re starting to really understand the way we want to play and it’s an exciting brand of footy for the fans to watch, and pretty exciting out there to play as well.”

The game briefly stagnated in the second term as neither side was able to break through, but a cracking snap goal from young Bomber Andrew McGrath wrestled the game back towards the red and black, sending the Dons on a rampage.

It was the first of four goals in four minutes and the side went on to boot six goals to the Kangaroos’ two for the term, taking a healthy six-goal buffer into the main break.

Merrett had faith the game would open up after a pressurised start and he said keeping a steady head in the third term as the Bombers – while performing well to dominate and boot four goals to one – squandered some chances to blow the game out further.

“(In any) game of footy, it’s a pretty tough start. No matter who you’re playing, it’s always going to be a hot footy around the contest early in the games.

“We felt like we wanted to work hard and wear them down over time and the game really opened up after half time.

“It wasn’t frustrating at all (to miss some scoring opportunities), that’s the game of footy; there’s misses, there’s mistakes, there’s errors.

“It’s about staying in the moment, being in the present and just trying to keep working on the way we want to play, so I don’t think guys got frustrated out there at all.”

Merrett celebrates Patrick Ambrose's goal midway through the third term.

The prolific on-baller appeared to have the Sherrin on a string and was clearly among Essendon’s best on Friday, raking in 39 disposals, 16 contested possessions, nine tackles, seven clearances and six inside 50s.

The modest midfielder played down his individual performance, instead recognizing the efforts of the team in another impressive effort across the board.

“I don’t rely on confidence or form to play well, I just get out there and try to play and be present in every moment and contest,” Merrett said.

“It’s just about playing my role and trusting that the other 21 guys will as well.”

Merrett was full of praise for debutant Brayden Ham, who was a late inclusion for experienced Bomber David Zaharakis.

Ham gathered 10 disposals, five tackles, four inside 50s and a goal in an encouraging display, and Merrett said his addition to the side gave the team a boost.

“He was awesome, he’s brought in a sense of energy and intensity that we love seeing.

“Some of his contests were amazing and to kick a goal late was also special.”

Another fresh face on the ground was powerful forward and Merrett’s close friend Joe Daniher, who made his long-awaited return to AFL football after being stuck on the sidelines since round seven last year.

Merrett said Daniher will take confidence out of the match after claiming 10 disposals, five marks and two goals – including a brilliant 60-metre bomb in the final term.

“It doesn’t feel like he’s been out for 12 months, he slotted in pretty seamlessly for us.

“Hopefully that will make him feel a lot better and he’ll be back into some good form pretty soon.”

The convincing victory sets up a mouth-watering clash with Collingwood on ANZAC Day next Thursday off the back of the Magpies’ 62-point drubbing of Brisbane on Thursday evening.

“They’re a super side, Collingwood, I watched them last night and they played some really strong footy,” Merrett said.

“It’s going to be a tough game, but I’m looking forward to it.”