A WORD of advice from former Essendon coach Mark Thompson and a last-second change of heart from the club's list manager Adrian Dodoro has been revealed as the reason why star midfielder Zach Merrett is at Tullamarine and not Greater Western Sydney.
The Bombers had planned to use pick No.26 on ruck-forward Rory Lobb at the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, but changed their decision and entered Merrett's name at the decisive moment.
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The choice to favour Merrett has proved a masterstroke, with the diminutive midfielder already a 127-game player, a two-time best and fairest winner and an All-Australian with Essendon at the age of just 24.
However, had the Bombers followed through on their original strategy and chosen Lobb, the Giants were due to pounce on Merrett later in the draft and add to their already talented midfield group.
"Our list management strategy was that we wanted to bring in a tall," Dodoro told the club's website.
"We got to that pick and, to be honest, I thought we were going to take Rory Lobb.
"But then I remember speaking to 'Bomber' Thompson on the Gold Coast about an hour before the draft. He said to me, 'what's your gut feel?' My gut feel was that this kid, Zach Merrett, was going to be a star.
"He said, 'always go with your gut instinct … don't worry about the strategy, go with your gut instinct'.
"We got to the pick and it was only when they called the number out that I turned around. I think there's an expletive that came over the broadcast and I actually changed my mind there and then. I said, 'bugger it … I'm taking Zach'.
"Stephen Silvagni at GWS was going to take Zach Merrett with his next pick. He looked at me, then he took Rory Lobb with that pick.
"It was interesting, but there's absolutely no regret. He's a great player and he's a boy that's got his best football ahead of him. Make no mistake about it."
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The Giants ultimately selected Lobb at pick No.29, with the talented 206cm big man enjoying a 74-game career with the club before moving to the Dockers at the end of the 2018 season.