Brisbane Lions FC
Born: 12 December 1984
Junior Club:Surfers Paradise
Senior Club: Southport
Schools: Benowa SHS
Region: Gold Coast Stingrays
Queensland: U18 (2002).
Draft Details: Selection #30 (2nd round) 2002 National Draft
AFL Debut: Rd 2 2005 – Brisbane v Port Adelaide, Gabba, Rd 2, 2005 (2 April)
Jumper Number: 21
AT A GLANCE: A full forward turned fullback who now ranks among the premier key defenders in an AFL competition in which he has spent significantly more time playing than he did trying to qualify for the elite system. He’d played less than two years of football before he was drafted by the Brisbane Lions in the second round of the 2002 AFL National Draft, having taken up the code almost as an after-thought.
Originally from Adelaide, he moved to the Gold Coast with his family as a youngster and began playing rugby league as an eight-year-old. Not until an errant tackle in an U12s game split his chin badly, knocked him out and put him in hospital did his sporting focus change. And only then after his mother said ‘no more’. He turned to volleyball, touch football and cricket, representing the Gold Coast in each, but they were quickly cast aside when he found himself watching a bunch of mates playing for the Surfers Paradise U18s in mid-2000.
It is a story that has become part of Queensland football folklore. The Surfers Paradise team was short and Merrett was asked to make up the numbers. Told to play at centre half forward, later centre half back, he had no idea so the coach said “play in the ruck – just follow the ball”. He did and he won $5 as an encouragement award. He came back the following week and soon was hooked on the game which had always prompted him turn off the television in his youth or find something else to do. He was lured into the AFLQ Rookie Search program by AFLQ Talent Manager Mark Browning and in 2002 represented Queensland at U18 level.
Brisbane recruiting staff had seen enough and utilized selection No.30 in the 2002 National Draft to claim the raw but enormously promising youngster. In his first season with the Suncoast Lions he finished fourth in the AFLQ’s 2003 Grogan Medal, dominating the second half of the season with his sheer strength and athleticism. Sadly, his second year was largely wiped out by glandular fever, but he did enough late in the domestic season to stake a claim as a strong marking key forward. He played 15 games and kicked 13 goals in 2005, earning three Brownlow Medal votes in the round 15 game against Collingwood and prompting judges of the caliber of Alastair Lynch no less to forecast big things.
But he didn’t really kick on as the Lions had hoped in ’06, playing just nine games for three goals. Yet it was the last two games of the ’06 season that transformed his career. He did a fine job in defence on two of the AFL’s premier marking forwards, Sydney’s Barry Hall and St.Kilda’s Nick Riewoldt, and there he has played every since. He played every game for the Lions in 2007, leading the AFL in defensive spoils, finishing eighth in the Lions B&F and earning the club’s “Best Defender” and “Most Improved Player” awards. He even rated a mention in All-Australian discussions.
He played every game in 2008 to reach his AFL half-century, and in ’09 was rewarded for his outstanding commitment and dedication when elevated to a five-man Lions leadership panel under captain Jonathan Brown and alongside fellow vice-captains Simon Black, Luke Power and Jed Adcock. He missed four games mid-season in ’09 with a nasty ankle problem but made his finals debut as the Lions returned to September action for the first time since the 2004 grand final. A member of the Queensland Team of the Year in 2007-08-09, he skippered the Lions for the first time in official competition when they lost to the Western Bulldogs in Canberra in Round 1 of the 2010 NAB Cup. Signed a new four-year contract at the end of 2009 which will tie him to the Lions until the end of 2013.