Essendon coach heaps praise on Merretts, Gleeson

SOUTH-west exports Marty Gleeson and brothers Jackson and Zach Merrett won rave reviews from Essendon coach Mark Thompson after the Bombers’ opening pre-season challenge match.

The trio was prominent in the Bombers’ one-point loss to Gold Coast Suns on Monday night, catching Thompson’s attention.

“We were pretty happy with the performance of some of the young players,” Thompson said after the match.

“They all showed ability at times — I thought Gleeson, Merrett, (Jason) Ashby, Joe Daniher, both the Merretts.”

While Jackson Merrett is in his third pre-season at the club and Gleeson in his second, Zach Merrett was on debut after being the Bombers’ first draftee at pick 26 in November’s draft.

“Zach was playing his first game. He played particularly well and he’s got a good future,” Thompson said.

“That was what I was pleased about. That’s what we came to do. I just wanted to see these players play and they excited us.”

Zach picked up 17 disposals and laid six tackles in an impressive first half across half-back before being subbed out.

The 18-year-old said his first appearance with the club had been memorable.

“It was pretty exciting before the game. Obviously an away game as well was a bit more special. Getting to stay in the hotel with the boys and travel on the plane was very exciting,” he told the Bombers’ website.

“It probably didn’t hit me until just before the game that I was actually pulling on the red-and-black for the first time. (I was) excited, not overawed.

“It was good to have a contest. Not the result that we wanted, but overall I was pretty happy.”

Zach said he had pestered older brother Jackson in the lead-up to the match.

“He didn’t try to say too much,” Zach said.

“He didn’t want to fill my head with too much because everyone else would be saying stuff as well. 

“I probably texted him about 15 times before the game asking what to wear, what to take and all that sort of stuff. He was very helpful.”

Zach said he had fitted in well with the Bombers and enjoyed playing up forward.

“I think the boys and ‘Bomber’ (Thompson) really gave me a lot of confidence before the game and just told me to back myself,” he said. “They really got around me and made it a lot easier.”

Gleeson, from Koroit, looked good after his first year at the Bombers was cut short when he had shoulder surgery. 

He collected 16 possessions, while Jackson Merrett on a wing had 15.

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