Zach Merrett of the Bombers runs with the ball during the round 23 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Carlton Blues at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 27, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Zach Merrett signs three-year contract extension

Essendon has signed young gun Zach Merrett for a further three years, ensuring he will remain in red and black until at least the end of the 2021 season.

Merrett enjoyed his best season to date this year, winning Essendon’s best and fairest and averaging 29.9 disposals per match in 2016.

Coach John Worsfold said he is delighted to have secured the 20-year-old for another three years.

“Zach was our most consistent performer this season, he showed outstanding leadership and played some exceptional football this season,” Worsfold said.

“He is well-respected by his team mates, is extremely professional in his preparation and has a hunger to improve and develop with each game.

“It’s exciting to see Zach commit to the Club long term, he is an important part of our future and we look forward to watching him grow as player and leader.”

Merrett, who in August became the third youngest skipper in Essendon’s history when he captained the club against Gold Coast in the absence of Brendon Goddard, said he is excited by what the future holds at the Bombers.

“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 told the club’s website.

“The Club is really well placed with John at the helm. We have established a really strong culture, and with the inclusion of the ten boys, we can’t wait to get on with business and train hard over the pre-season.

“Team success is why we play the game, and I’m really looking forward to working hard and gaining as much experience from people both inside and outside the Club to help the team achieve our vision.”

Merrett was selected with pick No. 26 in the 2013 National Draft and has played 59 games in three seasons.