NEWLY-crowned Essendon best and fairest Zach Merrett says an ability to impact his teammates was the most rewarding aspect for his standout 2021 season.
The Cobden export etched his name into the Bombers' history books on Tuesday night, winning his third Crichton Medal.
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Merrett, 25, is the 12th player in club history to win three or more best and fairests awards.
He polled 420 votes to win from runner-up Darcy Parish (339) and third-placed Will Snelling (315).
Merrett, who collected his second All-Australian blazer and averaged a career-high 31.5 disposals a game, said he'd grown as a leader in 2021.
"It is pretty rewarding and exciting (the medal) but for me it is more about team-based things now," he told Essendonfc.com.au.
"I have grown massively and influenced others much more this year.
"I think in the past it may have come across a bit selfishly but I felt I was very diligent in playing my role individually whereas I think this year was about helping my teammates and bringing them along. I helped more than ever before."
Merrett, who has played 165 AFL games, said there was a "great sense of calmness" at the club.
"The biggest thing now is people and players come into the club excited to get to work and there's a great deal of trust and alignment across the whole board," he said.
The midfielder, who finished with 20 votes in Sunday's night Brownlow Medal, said the Bombers took a step forward in making finals under first-year coach Ben Rutten.
"I think it is probably the first year since I've been at the club that we've had six to 10 guys who have performed really consistently across the season," he said.
"To be capped off with this award is extremely humbling but it's equally disappointing that we didn't win those finals and get deep into the season."
Merrett said he was "extremely grateful" to be part of Essendon, having signed a long-term deal earlier this year.
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