ZACH Merrett has pushed himself into the record books at Essendon after claiming his third best and fairest, with the Bombers' vice-captain beating out midfield partner Darcy Parish for the award.
Merrett claimed his third Crichton Medal on Tuesday night after polling 420 votes to finish ahead of Parish (339) and Will Snelling (315). Last year's winner Jordan Ridley (309 votes) placed fourth, ahead of dynamo Jake Stringer (286) in fifth place.
Merrett, who also won the Bombers' best and fairest in 2016 and 2019, became just the third player in the AFL era to be a triple best and fairest winner at Essendon. He becomes the 12th player in the club's long history to have won three or more best and fairests.
The 25-year-old rejected free agency this season to sign a mega six-year deal and get his second Therabody All-Australian guernsey after a consistent season that saw him average 31.5 disposals and finish sixth in the competition for disposals.
Merrett was recalled to the Bombers' leadership group for the season and coach Ben Rutten said he deserved the best and fairest honour.
"There's no doubt Zach took his game to another level this season and we commend him on his attitude, commitment, leadership and drive to again put together another outstanding year individually," Rutten said.
"Zach is a strong competitor who demands the best out of himself and his teammates in his determination to take this club forward."
Parish capped his career-best season with second place in his first top-three finish to a best and fairest, while Snelling was a surprise third place having been a mainstay of the Bombers' line-up since coming into the side as a mid-season rookie draft pick in 2019.
The Bombers' voting structure sees all players given an overall score out of five for their performance and also given a rating out of five for key Bomber attributes that when combined give them a maximum of 25 votes a game.
The votes are cast by the club's match committee, consisting of coach Ben Rutten and the assistants for the season Blake Caracella, Daniel Giansiracusa and Dan Jordan.
Jayden Laverde was named Essendon's most improved after his move to defence while Archie Perkins claimed the club's rising star award. Captain Dyson Heppell was named most courageous and Kyle Langford its best clubman.
2021 Crichton Medal
1. Zach Merrett - 420 votes
2. Darcy Parish - 339
3. Will Snelling - 315
4. Jordan Ridley - 309
5. Jake Stringer - 286
6. Jayden Laverde - 278
7. Kyle Langford - 253
8. Nick Hind - 223
9. Dyson Heppell - 218
10. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti - 214