RISING Essendon midfielder Zach Merrett is forecasting a bright future at Tullamarine as the evolving Bombers embark on a rebuilding mission under new coach John Worsfold.
The Dons lost 809 games of experience following the retirements of Dustin Fletcher, Jason Winderlich and Paul Chapman at the end of last season, while a key part of their spine was removed when Jake Carlisle was traded to St Kilda.
But having plundered the top end of the draft with four picks inside the top 30, the Bombers are setting themselves up to rise back up the ladder following last year's dismal 6-16 record.
Alongside Essendon's new faces this season, highlighted by elite juniors Darcy Parish and Aaron Francis, skipper Jobe Watson is set to be virtually a new recruit after a roubled 2015.
And with newly-elected vice-captain Dyson Heppell and top goalkicker Joe Daniher leading the next generation, Merrett told the club's website he's looking forward to a Bombers turnaround next season.
"It's obviously very exciting. There's a lot of young guys and we've picked up 13 or 14 new blokes this year as well," Merrett said.
"So there's a great framework and there's a lot of good things to build (on), hopefully.
"It's obviously exciting playing with the likes of Dyson and Joey, so I'm looking forward to this next year.
"(Worsfold's) been fantastic. He's brought his new perspectives to the club. I think he's really working to get a whole-club perspective on things and build on everything that's been in place beforehand.
"Hopefully, we'll build success on-field, but off-field as well, so it's exciting times."
Merrett, who has signed with the Bombers until at least the end of 2018, proved he is one of the brightest lights of Essendon's future last season when he built on his standout debut campaign.
He played the first 17 games and averaged 22 disposals before he was struck down by a stress reaction in his foot that ended his year prematurely.
The 20-year-old is back in full training, although he's carefully monitoring his foot for any signs of soreness.
"It's recovered really well. Obviously, it took the last five games away from me last year but it's back on track now, so I'm going really well."