Star midfielder Zach Merrett has joined an illustrious club after claiming his second Crichton Medal as Essendon’s best and fairest player at the Plenary on Tuesday night.
Merrett claimed 427 votes to win the 2019 Crichton and secure his position as the 20th multiple winner of the prestigious award, beating boom recruit Dylan Shiel (389) and dashing defender Adam Saad (376).
Merrett was in the league’s top echelon of midfielders again this year, proving himself once more as a ball magnet and claiming career-high season averages for contested possessions, clearances and goal assists.
The brilliant onballer led the club for average disposals (28.3), uncontested possessions (26.6) and pressure acts (26.6), was second for average score involvements (5.7) and clearances, and third for average contested possessions (10.7), tackles (5.4), inside 50s (4.8) and metres gained (415).
His 651 disposals also placed him in third place overall for most disposals by a Bomber in a single season, behind only himself in first and second place.
Merrett’s development as a leader also continued, with the vice-captain taking the reins as skipper on five occasions in the absence of Dyson Heppell.
Senior coach John Worsfold was full of praise for Merrett and lauded his leadership development.
“Zach has experienced another consistent year while honing his skillset as a leader both on and off the field,” Worsfold said.
“He continues to impress us with his attitude and work ethic, never showing complacency but rather wanting to strive to improve all aspects of his game.
“As we continue to build the chemistry among our midfield group, Zach will continue to provide important leadership through not only our midfield, but across the field next season and beyond.”
Shiel’s first season in the red and black was sensational as the former Giant lived up to the pre-season hype, adding a serious spark to the midfield with his dazzling athleticism and grunt.
The new Don averaged 26.2 disposals a game and led the club for average clearances (5.3) – his 116 total clearances stands in overall fifth place for clearances in a single season from a Bomber – while he also led the club for average metres gained (456), highlighting his ability to break away from the congestion and drive the ball forward with purpose.
Saad continued to stake his claim as one of the league’s leading small backmen this year, with his meticulous defensive work complementing his exciting attacking prowess.
He showed plenty of his trademark run from the defensive 50 throughout the year to finish third at the club for rebound 50s, and averaged 17.6 disposals per game at a very healthy 80.2 per cent efficiency, getting the best out of every possession to finish fourth for average metres gained (361).
Fellow dashing defender Conor McKenna’s career-best season was rewarded with fourth place in the final count, while skipper Dyson Heppell finishes fifth despite playing 18 games.
Young Andrew McGrath, key defender Patrick Ambrose, fan favourite Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, emerging midfielder Darcy Parish and experienced backman Michael Hurley rounded out the top 10.
2019 CRICHTON MEDAL TOP 10
1 – Zach Merrett (427 votes)
2 – Dylan Shiel (389)
3 – Adam Saad (376)
4 – Conor McKenna (361)
5 – Dyson Heppell (353)
6 - Andrew McGrath (343)
7 - Patrick Ambrose (324)
8 – Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (321)
9 – Darcy Parish (313)
10 – Michael Hurley (307)
The voting system involves Essendon’s six AFL coaches rating each player’s performance between zero and five for each game. The maximum votes a player can receive from one game is 30.
Bruce Heymanson Best Clubman – David Zaharakis
Adam Ramanauskas Most Courageous Player – Patrick Ambrose
Matthew Lloyd Leading Goalkicker – Jake Stringer
Lindsay Griffiths Rising Star – Dylan Clarke
Most Improved Player – Mason Redman
John Kilby Trainers and Staff Award – Dyson Heppell
The club's highest individual accolade has been previously won by:
Devon Smith (2018)
Joe Daniher (2017)
Zach Merrett (2016)
Cale Hooker (2015)
Dyson Heppell (2014)
Brendon Goddard (2013)
Jobe Watson (2012, 2010, 2009)
David Zaharakis (2011)