Gun mid Merrett inks new AFL deal with Bombers

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Star midfielder Zach Merrett has decided against exercising his AFL free agency options, signing a monster new six-year deal with Essendon.

The two-time best-and-fairest winner had been hotly pursued by rival clubs, including Carlton, and had taken time to consider his future as the Bombers entered a new era under Ben Rutten.

But the 25-year-old is now locked in until the end of 2027 on a deal reportedly worth about $5 million.

Merrett's commitment is a huge endorsement for the Bombers' Rutten-led rebuild.

"It's a privilege to play for the Essendon Football Club and I'm really excited to have agreed to terms on a new deal," Merrett said.

"There's no doubt the direction that the club is heading is the most exciting part.

"We are really clear in where we're headed under Truck (Rutten) and this new football program is very clearly united and aligned.

"The environment is something I wanted to continue to be a part of.

"It's really enjoyable watching the energy the young players are bringing to the club at the moment.

"Ultimately, it's on us as a playing group to drive our own future success, so I'm rapt my future is here with the Bombers."

Merrett, who will turn 32 around the time his new contract expires, has played 154 of a possible 164 games for Essendon since being drafted in 2013.

The smooth left-footer re-joined the Bombers' leadership group this year and is in consideration for a second All-Australian nod, averaging a career-best 31 disposals a game.

Merrett joins Devon Smith, Mason Redman, Harrison Jones, Brayden Ham, Nick Bryan and Alec Waterman in signing new deals with Essendon in recent weeks.

The Bombers are hopeful young midfield star Darcy Parish and experienced forward Jake Stringer will follow suit in the near future.

Parish's stocks have risen this season after a full-time switch to the midfield, where he is averaging a career-best 31 disposals and eight clearances.

The 23-year-old had a club-record 44 disposals in the recent defeat to Richmond.

Essendon (5-7) sit 11th ahead of Sunday's encounter with Hawthorn in Launceston, where a win would be a huge boost to the Bombers' slim finals chances.