ESSENDON has re-signed one of its brightest talents, with young midfielder Zach Merrett agreeing to a new three-year deal.
The 19-year-old, who has played every game this season after 20 matches in his debut year in 2014, is now committed to the club through to the end of the 2018 season.
Merrett was due to fall out of contract at the end of this season after the standard two-year deal for draftees expired. His signing was a priority for the Bombers in a deal that has been worked through in recent months.
"My decision to re-sign was based on the fact I believe we have a really tight group who want to achieve success together, we want to play finals and win finals," Merrett said in a statement.
"Essendon is where I want to play my footy. We have great coaches and development staff that I believe will provide me with the opportunity to get the best out of myself both on and off the field."
Merrett, whose older brother Jackson is into his fourth season at the club, has become a permanent member of the Bombers' line-up with his crafty left-foot kicking and smart decision-making.
Last year he booted 11 goals, but he has moved further up the field so far in 2015, and is averaging 20 disposals in the first five games. That included a near best-afield display against Hawthorn in round two, when he collected 26 touches and kicked a goal.
He was drafted at pick No.26 in 2013, the selection the Bombers received from the Western Bulldogs for departing forward Stewart Crameri in what has proven to be a win-win deal for both clubs.
Coach James Hird said Merrett had already proved his value to everyone at Essendon in a short space of time.
"It's hard to believe he's only in his second season of senior football. His teammates love having him in the side, and his pressure and hardness in the forward line and midfield make him a vital member of our squad," Hird said.
"It's young players like Zach who give our fans great hope that the future of our football club is heading in the right direction."
The Bombers have a number of key players who come out of contract at the end of this season, including restricted free agent Tom Bellchambers and key forward Jake Carlisle.
Brent Stanton and Courtenay Dempsey will also become unrestricted free agents at the end of the year.