Merrett seeks end to AFL tagging trials

Zach Merrett (left) says he’s relishing having to learn how to deal with AFL taggers.Essendon star Zach Merrett has reached out to a number of people for advice as he attempts to deal with being tagged on a weekly basis.

The All-n AFL midfielder has been targeted all year and has struggled to escape the clutches of the opposition’s designated tagger.

Carlton’s Ed Curnow was the latest player to claim Merrett’s scalp, restricting the 22-year-old to just 16 disposals as the Blues scored an upset 13-point win on Saturday.

After averaging 30 disposals a game in 2017, Merrett has averaged just 21 this season and the 2016 best-and-fairest admits it will take time for him to work out how to recapture his best form.

“I’m getting some really good opportunities to learn and develop as a player, understanding that it’s going to happen most weeks now,” Merrett said on Monday of being tagged.

“So that’s a fun experience and something I’ve got to learn to deal with as well and I’ve still got to have a big impact and influence on the game with my teammates as well.

“I’ve got some really good people around me … I’ve spoken to a number of people who are really experienced in that area (being tagged).

“It’s something that’s going to take a bit of time as well though. Obviously, I would love to go out there and be best on (ground) every week … I’m sure the results will slowly change.”

Coach John Worsfold’s game plan, which has undergone a defensive makeover in 2018, has come in for sharp criticism, but Merrett believes the Bombers’ woes are largely due to players underperforming.

“I’d love to be able to pinpoint why and turn it around, but it’s probably hard to define,” Merrett said when asked why so many players had gone backwards since last year.

“Ultimately we’re not playing well enough as a team so that’s probably the reason why.”

Merrett said it was frustrating to play in a struggling team given how well the Bombers played in 2017 as they made the finals on the back of being the third-highest scoring team in the competition.

Essendon have now lost their past four games and have the 10th-best attack in the AFL, but Merrett insisted that Worsfold’s messaging was still getting through to the playing group.

“He’s a very consistent guy and as a coach he’s very level-headed so he hasn’t wavered in terms of his professionalism,” he said. “I’ve got full support in ‘Woosha’.”

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