ESSENDON youngster Zach Merrett capped off a dream debut as captain, leading his young side to their second win of the season.
With Brendon Goddard sidelined with a groin injury, Merrett was given the nod to skipper the club for the first time against Gold Coast on Sunday, becoming Essendon's third-youngest captain behind Simon Madden and Tim Watson.
In what has been a challenging season for the Bombers, the 20-year-old has been a shining light, averaging close to 30 disposals per game.
And he didn't disappoint in his captaincy debut.
Merrett led from the front with 38 disposals, four clearances and four inside 50s and was among the Bombers' best in their gutsy six-point win over the Suns at Etihad Stadium.
The occasion did not overawe the young leader.
"He generally handles every occasion pretty well," coach John Worsfold said after the win.
"He's a quality young man, very clear on where he wants to go and he was excited about the opportunity and embraced being a leader on-field for the day.
Teammate Martin Gleeson said Merrett's professionalism on and off the field was an inspiration.
"He's pretty quiet but when he speaks everyone listens. When he lifts, everyone lifts around him so he has been great this year," Gleeson told AFL.com.au.
"He does everything asked of him and 10 times more. He's first at the club and last to leave and gets around everyone.
"He sets probably the best example at the club and for him to be rewarded with the captaincy this week and to get a win is awesome."
Before the match Merrett oozed excitement as he was interviewed on the big screen, his enthusiasm rubbing off on his teammates.
"Zachy had a good speech ready before the game," Gleeson said.
"He just wanted us to go out and have fun and you could see how excited he was and that really rubbed off on all of us I think."
Worsfold was unsure whether Goddard would be fit to face the Western Bulldogs next Sunday, although the 31-year-old was hopeful of a return.
Regardless, the Bombers have certainly uncovered a new leader of the club for many years to come.