|V/AFL Clubs||Essendon, Brisbane|
Essendon utility Roger Merrett joined Brisbane prior to the start of the 1988 season, at the same time as flamboyant Sydney full forward Warwick Capper. While most of the initial attention was focused on Capper, who was a proven crowd pleaser, and who, in 1987, had booted 103 goals for the year, it was to be Merrett who would go on to have far and away the greater impact at the Bears. When he retired at the end of the 1996 season he held the club records for most games (164) and goals (285), and had been skipper for seven straight seasons. However, it was for attributes not readily submitting to statistical analysis that he is probably best remembered. A quintessential, archetypal on field leader, Merrett placed his body on the line for his teammates time and time again, and seldom can the expression 'leading from the front' have found a more appropriate or deserving target.
Merrett also gave good service to his first club, Essendon, but only after enduring an extended apprenticeship which saw him start 21 of his first 62 games for the club on the bench. Once he established himself, however, he became a fulcrum for a Bomber attack which, in 1984 and 1985, was arguably the most potent in the history of the game up to that point. Although not captain of his club, his leadership qualities were recognised in 1984 when he was chosen as captain of Victoria.
Merrett's 149 VFL games in ten years at Essendon included the winning grand finals of 1984 and 1985, both against Hawthorn, and gave him a career total of 313. He also played numerous VFL reserves games while at Windy Hill, and in 1982 secured the slightly dubious honour of winning the Gardiner Medal for the best and fairest player at that level. Most recipients of that award sink swiftly from public view without trace, but Merrett was the quintessential exception that proves the rule (see footnote 1).
Author - John Devaney