Under-fire Essendon midfielder Zach Merrett was suffering a virus when he took the field against Greater Western Sydney on Sunday at Giants Stadium.
The 23-year-old managed to get up to play the game but put in a below-par performance, collecting just 16 disposals and applying little pressure.
Zach Merrett was battling illness in round one.CREDIT:AAP
Merrett’seffort was the subject of much discussion after the game and one particular contest midway through the first quarter drew heavy criticism from former club greats such as Tim Watson, who described it as “not up to AFL standard”.
The Bombers cleared Merrett to play, aware that he had worked his way through such issues at other times during his 104-game career, however he struggled during the match.
Merrett is expected to be fine to play against St Kilda this weekend and the Bombers were keen to not look for excuses after the 72-point loss, with senior coach John Worsfold saying more than one midfielder performed below expectation in round one.
Merrett is also understood to have taken full ownership of his performance and was not keen for the virus to be discussed publicly in case it was seen as an excuse.
He also had an interrupted pre-season after rolling his ankle in the lead up to the JLT.
After being in a moonboot for several weeks he played just 17 per cent of the first JLT game and then played against Geelong and was well prepared for round one.
Merrett, who won Essendon’s 2016 best and fairest, is one of the game’s emerging midfielders.
His round one performance was only the fifth time since 2015 that Merrett had collected as few as 16 disposals in a game.