Zachary Merrett (Sandringham Dragons)
Height: 178 cm
Weight: 73 kg
Position: Outside Midfielder/Small Forward
Player comparison: Leigh Montagna/Brent Harvey
Strengths: Disposal, tackling, vision
Weaknesses: doesn’t run hard defensively, predominately an outside player
Zac Merrett resembles his brother Jackson in many ways. Merrett plays a very role that isn’t too different from Jackson and is also a similar size. Likewise they both could go around the same part of the draft, with Jackson going at pick 31 a few years prior. The suggestions for Zac to go late first round are perhaps a little short sighted, but anywhere between picks 25-40 would be reasonable.
Merrett is a classy ball user, with penetrating short kicks and excellent vision, Merrett is an intelligent play maker across the half forward line. To say he’s an elite kick though would be a stretch. He’s not an overly big kick of the footy and he’s running at 58% kicking efficiency. He’s the kind of player who a forward would love delivery from, but his execution can be poor at times. Against North Ballarat he had 22 kicks, but 14 were ineffective. He was named Sandringham’s sixth best player that game. In comparison, his kicking can break games open. Against the Northern Knights he was best on ground with only 17 possessions. 11 of his 13 kicks were effective that game, with many coming in dangerous areas.
Merrett doesn’t have the tank to be a full time midfielder, which may come over time. What does need to change is his defensive attitude. He’s quick to run forward and be unaccountable, but when the ball gets turned over, you wonder whether he even knows he has an opponent. Two way running is something that will stop him from being a first round pick.
Having said that, when he is in the thick of the action, he applies pressure. His tackling numbers are higher than most inside midfielders. He averages five and half tackles over six TAC Cup games this year, with a season high 12 against Eastern. Despite only kicking one goal in six games this year, Merrett is a threat around goals and will be a guy who can kick 20 goals a year at AFL level. He’s played the delivery role more often than as a pure forward this year.
Merrett is quick and eye catching, but he can fade in and out of games. However it is worth noting, his ball winning numbers are pretty good for a guy who plays as a fourth string midfielder.
Merrett doesn’t have the size to be an inside midfielder or the skills, although his strong core does give him something to work with. As an outside midfielder, he’s averaged just under 11 handball receives per game, which is excellent considering he’s playing alongside Josh Kelly and Nathan Freeman, two of the best outside midfielders in the country. Merrett’s averaged five marks per game and hasn’t taken a single contested mark- which unfortunately reinforces the ‘spaceman’ stigma.
In the Bound For Glory News Phantom Draft, Merrett was selected with pick 76 by the Western Bulldogs. His outside running game will suit them well and at pick 76 he is a real steal. Merrett’s lack of a two way game and being predominately an outside player really marks him down. But his tackling, vision and occasionally lethal kicking are superb. A team that requires a classy half forward could do much worse than picking up Merrett. If he can work on his inside game a bit more and become more accountable, he will become a very good midfielder or high half forward.