Bombers can challenge for the flag, says bullish Merrett
March 23, 2017 8:59 AM
ESSENDON'S joint vice-captain Zach Merrett says the reassembled Bombers can challenge for the premiership this year.
The Dons, who haven't won a final since 2004, have been boosted by the return of 10 experienced players after serving season-long doping suspensions, and Merrett's strong belief in the club's flag hopes will further excite its long-suffering fans.
Ahead of the Bombers' blockbuster season-opener against Hawthorn at the MCG on Saturday night, the 21-year-old reigning club champion revealed his confidence in the club's new direction had been reinforced by the Western Bulldogs' astounding feats last year.
"I'm a bit nervous to have those guys back but very excited as well … that we genuinely could contend for a premiership this year," Merrett told radio SEN on Thursday morning.
"I think we can (win the flag). I think we believed that before the Dogs did it, but now the Dogs have done it, it just gives everyone that real belief that if you get it right at the right time of the year, you can genuinely contend."
And the classy left-footed midfielder, who has racked up an impressive 59 games in his three seasons at Bomberland, believes he's in a prime position to help his club's quest for its first flag since 2000, having been elevated to the vice-captaincy alongside Cale Hooker.
"When I walked into the place when I was 18, it was just about trying to influence the place and influence my teammates to try (to) win a premiership," Merrett said.
"I didn't really think about getting in the leadership group or being a captain or vice-captain of the club so early, but … hopefully I can influence my teammates towards success."
Merrett also gave an insight into the anxiety felt by his returning teammates before their comeback games.
"Their first month through November they were probably super-excited and very eager, and then December and January they got back into pre-season mode and realised how much of a slog it really was," he said.
"Now round one's approaching, obviously guys are anxious (and there's) a big unknown of what's going to happen. There are a lot of unknowns but hopefully the fitness and conditioning staff have got them ready."