Scott says Merrett is even better than he realised
Zach Merrett, like Michael Voss a generation ago, is even better than Essendon coach Brad Scott thought.
The Bombers captain was clearly best afield on Saturday night, leading his team to a one-point win over Richmond - 10.11 (71) to 10.10 (70) - in the annual AFL Dreamtime At The 'G clash.
It broke their 13-game losing streak against the Tigers, dating back to 2014, and snapped Essendon's four-game losing streak over the last month.
Merrett racked up 39 possessions and led superbly in the last term as Essendon fought back from three goals down.
Sam Durham marked and kicked the match winner with seven seconds left - the only time they led in the second half.
Scott paid Merrett high praise, comparing him to Voss.
Scott had Voss as his captain for Brisbane's 2001-03 premiership three-peat.
In his first season as Essendon coach, Scott has been similarly impressed with Merrett.
"Usually, you get disappointed when you see them up close," Scott said.
"When I went up (to Brisbane) as a player and I saw him (Voss), I thought 'wow, he's better than I thought he was'.
"Merrett fits in that category. I knew he was a good player, but he has aspects of his game I wasn't aware of ... he's a better player than I thought he was.
"Zach got his just reward tonight."
Merrett's performance was crucial, given that Essendon lost fellow midfielder Dylan Shiel as a late withdrawal with a corked calf.
It was the latest in a bad run of injuries that have dogged the Bombers and Saturday night's win was big for the club.
Scott noted that along with rewarding effort, the win was also reward for their fans after enduring Essendon's tumultuous decade in the wake of their drugs debacle.
"It's only so long you can keep talking about effort and playing well ... it becomes hard to keep pushing the message when you're not getting that result," Scott said.
"I would never underestimate what Essendon fans have gone through over the last decade and that streak since 2014, that's been hard for them."
Scott alluded to Essendon's heartbreaking Anzac Day loss last month, when they gave up a 28-point lead to Collingwood.
"Even when Sam Durham kicked that goal, there were still seven seconds to go. Miracles can happen," he said.
"In the long term, it just helps us build belief. But our supporters, they should really enjoy this one, because they've been through some tough times."
Durham's match-winning heroics continue his remarkable story.
He was playing in the VFL for Richmond two seasons ago when Essendon picked him up through the mid-season draft.
"Yeah, we're just going to trade all our picks and go to the mid-season draft," Scott said.
"People who say a Tasmanian team coming in, the talent pool isn't deep enough, all that sort of stuff - there are plenty of good players around the country."