AFL Rd 13 - Essendon v Richmond
DARWIN, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: Zach Merrett of the Bombers kicks the ball during the round 13 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Richmond Tigers at TIO Stadium on August 22, 2020 in Darwin, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Essendon’s bright 2021 season got better on Thursday, when Zach Merrett put pen-to-paper on a massive six-year contract extension.

The future of the star midfielder has been a topic of discussion since the end of last season, with multiple clubs seeking interest in the restricted free agent.

So what swayed the 25-year-old to recommit with the Bombers?

Speaking on SEN Breakfast, the two Crichton Medal winner spoke on the influence and impact rookie coach Ben Rutten has had on his decision and view on the club.

"Looking back over the past seven or eight years from the start of my career, there hasn’t been a lot of change and wasn’t a great deal of alignment and trust throughout the organisation," Merrett.

“It wasn’t so much just 12 weeks of footy, but from day 1 of pre-season, 'Truck' (Rutten) has brought in a great deal of change in the organisation as a whole and more importantly allowed us as players to hone in on our footy.

“The majority of the time we’re giving really consistent effort and hopefully fans and people are seeing that change now.”

Merrett's signature, essentially meaning he'll be a Don for life, shows just how much faith he has with the club.

Merrett says everyone, off-field and on, are working cohesively.

"There’s a real sense of clarity with everyone, both players and staff as well, for what their role is and what’s required of them," Merrett added.

"Secondly, there’s a real sense of buy-in and alignment across the place. I think guys are really enjoying getting to work and celebrating each other along the journey as well.

"It’s reflecting on game day, but there’s a lot of work that’s being put in (behind the scenes).

"Josh (Mahoney), Xavier (Campbell), Ben (Rutten) along with Adrian (Dodoro) have created a great sense of alignment, but as players, Dyson (Heppell), Andy (McGrath), ‘Hurls’ (Michael Hurley) … a number of players are taking a great deal of ownership as well.

There has been significant improvement at Essendon this season under Rutten, with its draftees and young players exciting fans for the future.

"We’ve seen some younger players more importantly flourish like (Darcy) Parish, (Kyle) Langford and (Jayden) Laverde down back, which has taken a load off the shoulders of Dyson and a few others,” Merrett said.

Merrett will play his 155th game in the red and black this weekend when the Bombers face close rivals Hawthorn in Tasmania on Sunday.