Skipper Merrett not fazed by Bombers legend's criticism
Essendon are trying to deliver on club great Matthew Lloyd's demand for a "tougher, nastier brand" of football, according to new skipper Zach Merrett.
Speaking at his first ever captains' day to launch the 2023 AFL season, Merrett, who took over from long-time skipper Dyson Heppell, said he had no issue with Lloyd's scathing comments.
The Bombers legend said the time for excuses was up and players needed to be mentally and physically tougher.
"A tougher, nastier brand I am hoping we see from the Bombers this year," Lloyd told 3AW.
Essendon only managed seven wins last season, which led to Ben Rutten being sacked as coach.
He was replaced by former North Melbourne coach Brad Scott after the Bombers failed in a last-ditch attempt to lure Alastair Clarkson.
Merrett says he's close to three-times Coleman Medal winner Lloyd, who was key to the Bombers' last premiership back in 2000, and respected the champion goal-kicker's views.
"I'm actually quite close to Matt and I chat to him a bit," midfield ace Merrett said.
"He's a passionate Essendon person which we love and as players respect his opinion.
"He's been a champion of our club and of the whole AFL so he knows what he's talking about.
"We're certainly trying to establish a brand, trying to be consistent, trying to play with that passion that past Essendon champions or teams have had.
"I've got full respect for Matthew so I've got no qualms with him having a pot at us."
Merrett, 27, said the club had identified their defence as a major area for improvement ahead of their round-one clash with Hawthorn on Sunday week.
"We just need to be a bit more balanced - you can look at the data for the last five years and we've been quite low in defensive rankings so we need to improve quickly," the two-time All Australian said.
"We need to level up and be far better in that area ... we feel like it's improving but we won't know until we get to play for four points and see how we go."
Merrett said Essendon will look different, changing their game plan and system under Scott.
"It's going to look a lot different and fans will notice the difference in how we set up," Merrett said.
"Whether we execute that for 120 minutes I'm sure we won't but hopefully we start to build more consistency ... but it will be pretty clear in round one about what we're trying to do."
Meanwhile, Essendon assistant coach Dale Tapping has been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer - myeloma - but will continue working in his role while undergoing weekly treatment.
"The challenge is accepting what I've got and now having a strategic plan and process of treatment," Tapping said in a club statement.
"I've got a really good plan and handled by the best specialists and give us our greatest chance to live a long healthy life."