Following a few high-profile Bombers teammate requesting a trade from the club, Zach Merrett affirms his commitment to the club for 2021.
"I'm very much committed to playing at Essendon next year and I'm confident that with the players we've got and the coaches we've got at the moment we can turn it around reasonably quickly and get back up the ladder," he said.
Zach Merrett is among a host of changes to the Bombers' 2020 leadership group, with wantaway forward Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia also cut from the squad.
The complete overhaul will see four fresh faces serve under captain Dyson Heppell in the five-man group this year including Devon Smith, Dylan Shiel, David Zaharakis and Michael Hurley.
"It's just a good opportunity to reflect on your leadership style. I know last year I wasn't in the group but I think my leadership grew throughout the year," Hurley said.
"I saw things slightly differently, became a bit of a conduit for some of the players who weren't in the leadership group and some of the younger players. Zach will find ways to grow. He's a smart young guy, driven, so I think his leadership will continue to grow and we'll see him as a leader in the future."
Dyson Heppell will again lead Essendon in 2019 as captain, with the Bombers opting for a smaller leadership group.
Zach Merrett (vice-captain), David Myers, Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia have also retained their places in the leadership group from last season, however key defensive pair Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker have dropped out.
"We feel all five men bring strong and diverse qualities that will ensure the growth of the playing group across a number of values and we hope this resonates on-field too," Essendon coach John Worsfold said.
"I'd also like to acknowledge both Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley who are terrific leaders and made a strong contribution to the group last season."
Zach Merrett will spend the next two weeks with his left ankle in a moonboot after suffering a sprain at training.
"Zach suffered the injury during a competitive training drill earlier this morning which was scanned immediately, and subsequently he will be required to wear a moonboot for approximately two weeks," Bombers football manager Dan Richardson said.
"At this point, we don't anticipate the injury will impact Zach's availability for the commencement of the season."
Essendon's best and fairest winner Zach Merrett will be tied to the Bombers for at least the next five years after signing a new three-year contract extension.
"I'm really excited about the faith the club has shown in me, and it's great to have secured my future at Essendon for the next five years," Merrett said in a club statement.
"The club is really well placed with (coach) John [Worsfold] at the helm. We have established a really strong culture, and with the inclusion of the 10 boys, we can't wait to get on with business and train hard over the pre-season."
Essendon midfielder Zach Merrett has become the club's youngest best and fairest winner in 35 years after claiming this year's Crichton Medal.
The third-year Bomber was rewarded for his outstanding season by being the runaway winner of his first club best and fairest award with 378 votes, ahead of leading goalkicker Joe Daniher and top-up player James Kelly, who shared second place on 273 votes.
"Zach was our most consistent performer this season and is a deserving winner of the 2016 Crichton Medal," Essendon coach John Worsfold said.
"Zach played some exceptional football this season, and that was built off the back of his professionalism, living elite standards and a hunger to improve and develop with each game."
Zach Merrett caps off a dream debut as captain, leading his young side to their second win of the season.
With Brendon Goddard sidelined with a groin injury, Merrett was given the nod to skipper the club for the first time against Gold Coast, becoming Essendon's third-youngest captain behind Simon Madden and Tim Watson.
In what has been a challenging season for the Bombers, the 20-year-old has been a shining light, averaging close to 30 disposals per game.
And he didn't disappoint in his captaincy debut.
Merrett led from the front with 38 disposals, four clearances and four inside 50s and was among the Bombers' best in their gutsy six-point win over the Suns at Etihad Stadium.
"He generally handles every occasion pretty well," coach John Worsfold said after the win.
"He's a quality young man, very clear on where he wants to go and he was excited about the opportunity and embraced being a leader on-field for the day."
Teammate Martin Gleeson said Merrett's professionalism on and off the field was an inspiration.
"He's pretty quiet but when he speaks everyone listens. When he lifts, everyone lifts around him so he has been great this year," Gleeson said.
"He does everything asked of him and 10 times more. He's first at the club and last to leave and gets around everyone.
"He sets probably the best example at the club and for him to be rewarded with the captaincy this week and to get a win is awesome."
Zach Merrett says he has mixed feelings about being elevated into the Bombers' leadership group following bans handed to five of the club's leadership group members.
A month before the bans were announced, Merrett had missed out on making Essendon's leadership group and was disappointed not to be included.
"It was a bit of a weird feeling. To miss out the first time was a little bit disappointing, but to get in the second time was weird knowing that a few guys had been suspended and weren't able to take their place in that leadership group," Merrett said.
"But on the other hand it was exciting and a new experience I wouldn't have if they didn't get suspended. I'm just trying to take it all in and try to grow that part of my game, and to look out more for other people."
Emerging Bombers Zach Merrett and Joe Daniher have been named in the club's rejigged leadership group, which will feature rotating top-up players throughout the season.
Essendon was forced to change its leadership group when five members – captain Jobe Watson, vice-captain Dyson Heppell, David Myers, Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley – were suspended for the season for anti-doping breaches.
The remaining two members of the group that was announced in December, Brendon Goddard and Mark Baguley, have taken on the respective captain and vice-captaincy duties this year.
The bans left several vacancies, with Merrett, Daniher and James Gwilt added to leadership positions, and David Zaharakis reinstalled into the leadership group after being cut at the end of last season.
"Obviously development of our youngsters is a bit of a priority this year so it makes sense that we've got a couple of younger players who are held in pretty high regard by the group and they're emerging leaders," Essendon football manager Rob Kerr.
"Given the circumstances and given the exposure to the full leadership repertoire and what's involved in the senior leadership group level will no doubt hold them in good stead and fast-track their progress."