ESSENDON'S Zach Merrett has followed in the footsteps of his idol Dyson Heppell by being named the round 11 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee.
The 18-year-old Bomber had his best game in the red and black on Saturday night, gathering 22 disposals and booting two classy fourth-quarter goals in the 'Dreamtime at the 'G' win over Richmond at the MCG.
"I was pretty nervous before the game with 80,000 people and Dreamtime," Merrett told AFL.com.au on Monday.
"But it was good to get a few touches and to kick a few goals at the end was nice to finish off.
"To be Rising Star this round is just extra special."
Merrett helped carve-up the toothless Tigers with his piercing left-foot, using the ball at better than 86 per cent efficiency.
It's a trait he shares with his mentor Heppell, who won the NAB AFL Rising Star award in 2011.
"I've leaned on Dyson Heppell a fair bit. He's helped me a lot with vision and just pointing me in the right direction," Merrett said.
"Then my brother's (Jackson) been really handy. There's just a lot of questions I ask him at home, it's really good.
"I'd only played one game with him before this year, so it's a bit different.
"It just felt like in the locker rooms at training it was just at home at our local footy club (in Cobden).
"It was pretty surreal at start but now it's just getting on with the job."
Merrett has made an immediate impression at Essendon after being selected with the Bombers' first pick - No.26 overall - in last year's NAB AFL draft.
He was rewarded with a round one debut and was used as the substitute again in round two.
Sent back to the VFL to find more of the football, Merrett returned in the Anzac Day blockbuster and now he's tightening his grip on a spot in the Bombers' 22.
In the past two matches he's averaging above 20 disposals, up from 13 possessions across his seven games so far.
"Against Sydney I felt like I experienced doing the right things a bit more and then to do it again the next week's given me a lot more confidence to go forward," he said.
Merrett becomes the first Bomber to be nominated for the NAB AFL Rising Star award since Jake Carlise in round nine, 2012.
But there's no danger of the Sandringham Dragons product becoming complacent that he's made it at AFL level.
"Every day there's something to do to get better, if you don't you fall behind," he said.