After showing encouraging signs in his first season at Essendon last year, high-flying defender Brandon Zerk-Thatcher took a leap forward in 2019.

Knocking down the selection door with consistent performances in the VFL, the 21-year-old was finally rewarded with an AFL debut in the round 22 clash against Fremantle.

A late replacement for the injured Cale Hooker, the No.66 draft pick certainly held his own in the victory that clinched a finals berth, recording 11 possessions (five as intercepts), six marks (one contested) and an equal team-high seven one-percenters.

Despite impressing, Zerk-Thatcher made way the week after for experienced teammates returning from injury, instead playing a key role in the Bombers’ run to a VFL preliminary final. 

The South Australian would go on to finish with 19 VFL games for the second successive season, using his versatility to play on tall and small forwards and establishing himself as one of the league’s leading intercept players. 

His courage and ferocity in contests were also hallmarks of his VFL season.

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High praise for a high flyer ✈️

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Games: 1

Goals: 0

Average disposals: 11

Average marks: 6

Average rebound 50s: 4

Average tackles: 3


Having signed a contract extension to tie him to the Bombers until at least the end of 2021, Zerk-Thatcher will have his sights set on a regular spot in the 22 in his third year.

The growth he showed in 2019 certainly bodes well for his quest, but he'll again face stiff competition from experienced talls Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker.