Main content

Young gun Don a runaway winner at Crichton Medal

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 14: Acting captain Zach Merrett of the Bombers in action during the 2016 AFL Round 21 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Gold Coast Suns at Etihad Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Zach Merrett was Essendon's youngest club champion in 35 years

ESSENDON midfielder Zach Merrett has become the club's youngest best and fairest winner in 35 years after claiming this year's Crichton Medal.

The third-year Bomber was rewarded for his outstanding season by being the runaway winner of his first club best and fairest award with 378 votes, ahead of leading goalkicker Joe Daniher and top-up player James Kelly, who shared second place on 273 votes.

Stand-in captain Brendon Goddard finished in fourth place with 269 votes, while midfielder David Zaharakis closed out the top five with 257 votes.

At 20 years and 333 days old, Merrett became the youngest winner of the Bombers' club champion award since Neale Daniher took it out in 1981 aged 20 years and 228 days.

It is an apt finish to an outstanding season for Merrett, who was unlucky not to be named in this week's Virgin Australia AFL All Australian squad of 40.

Merrett's 34-disposal finish to the season in last week's win over Carlton saw him break the club record for the most disposals in a season. 

His 657 possessions (at an average of 30 a game) eclipsed the mark set by Jobe Watson in 2012. Merrett also captained the Bombers to their round 21 win over Gold Coast and emerged as a future star of the competition.

"Zach was our most consistent performer this season and is a deserving winner of the 2016 Crichton Medal," coach John Worsfold said.

"Zach played some exceptional football this season, and that was built off the back of his professionalism, living elite standards and a hunger to improve and develop with each game."

Merrett was also awarded the best clubman award and was named the best defensive player for the Bombers, after ranking fourth in the competition for pressure acts and turnovers forced and 18th in the League for tackles.

While Kelly, the three-time Geelong premiership player, has yet to declare if he will continue his AFL career next year, fellow replacement player Matt Dea is keen to remain at Essendon and did his chances no harm with a ninth-place finish in the best and fairest. 

The former Tiger was also named Essendon's most courageous player for the season, with defender Patrick Ambrose named the most improved Bomber.

Essendon's ability to uncover talented youth despite its wooden spoon season was underlined in its best and fairest voting, with youngsters Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (seventh), Orazio Fantasia (eighth) and Darcy Parish (10th) finishing in the top 10.

2016 Essendon best and fairest top 10
1. Zach Merrett (378 votes)
2. Joe Daniher (273)
    James Kelly (273)
4. Brendon Goddard (269)
5. David Zaharakis (257)
6. Mitch Brown (245)
7. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (236)
8. Orazio Fantasia (229)
9. Matt Dea (228)
10. Darcy Parish (224)