JACKSON Merrett was able to settle into his favourite position on the wing at Peel Thunder in 2020 and delivered a standout season to win the Tuckey Medal as the club's fairest and best player despite the challenges the year presented.
Merrett was playing his second season with Peel Thunder in the WAFL on the back of his time in the AFL with Essendon where he played 56 matches at the top level, and he was outstanding settling into his customary position on the wing.
He went on to average 22.5 disposals across the eight games for the Thunder and when you consider the shorter quarters this season and the fact that Peel didn’t manage to win a game then those numbers are all the more impressive.
Merrett consolidated himself as one of the hardest running and most consistent wingmen across the competition while also taking it upon himself to take on more of a leadership role with the Thunder
That saw him finish atop the voting for the Tuckey Medal as he was named fairest and best winner at the Thunder for 2020.
While it was a year full of challenges on and off the field, Merrett has enjoyed his time enough at Peel the last two years to be happy to commit to continuing at the Thunder in 2021 now as well.
"I’m driven by success and I truly believe we can take a giant leap forward as a side following on from last season," Merrett said.
"If we commit to continually improving and challenging one another to become the best players and teammates and all-round individuals then we should have no excuses come the end of 2021 to be mixing it with the best sides in the competition."
It was somewhat of a surprise that Merrett found himself delisted by Essendon even at the end of 2018 after playing 56 games and at times looking well and truly cemented in the Bombers line-up along with his brother Zach.
But that was to Peel's benefit when he signed for 2019 and then took his game up a notch in 2020 without the presence of the AFL-listed players from the Dockers.
That also enabled him to play the majority of the season on the wing where he feels he plays his best football and he more than held up his end of the deal with outstanding football and taking on even more of a leadership role.
While proud of ending up with the fairest and best award, Merrett took more pride in the leadership he showed in 2020 and hopes to now continue to build on that moving forward.
"It's nice to receive personal recognition for all the time and hard work that goes into it, but at the same time it was a frustrating season obviously with us going through 0-8," Merrett told 91.3 SportFM.
"But it was rewarding at the same time to see so much growth and development with the younger members of the side. I'd like to think I played some part in passing on my knowledge to those guys so I got a little bit of a tick from that as well.
"Leadership is something that I really enjoy so being able to pass on my knowledge and help those guys out at training and on game is something I really value. I hope they valued it as much as I did pass on some of my knowledge to those guys."
The season had its obvious challenges for everyone in 2020 for COVID-19 with the clubs ready to go for the start having gone through a full pre-season before having it delayed until July 18.
Peel was without question hurt the most by the proceedings by losing access to their AFL-listed players from the Dockers but Merrett is taking a positive approach in terms of the young players it gave opportunities to as a result.
"Being so late before the season it didn’t give the club the opportunity to be able to recruit that top end talent that we would have had on hand week to week with the Dockers players," he said.
"But it gave those younger guys like Jack Spears, Jamie Ewing, Michael Randall and Ben Middleton a lot more exposure than they otherwise would have got. That will only hold the club in good stead moving forward."
Because of everything that happened in 2020, Merrett was actually crying out for the end of the season despite how well he was playing individually and he already now can't wait for 2021.
"It was challenging and looking back on it now it's probably the most drained I've been at the end of a footy season even though we only played eight games," Merrett said.
"The mental side of it played a big part in that and before the season even started not knowing if we'd get to play at all, how long the season would go for, how long the matches would be and the access to players we'd have at Peel.
"So in terms of a draining point of view, it was probably the most drained I've felt after a season of footy so I was quite happy when things wrapped up."
Josh Bootsma marked his return to Peel and WAFL football in 2020 by finishing as runner-up in fairest and best voting while captain and dual Tuckey Medallist Ben Howlett finished third.
Emerging defender Jordan Boullineau was named Most Consistent Player while Hayden Ballantyne was leading goalkicker, Michael Randall was named Best Young Player and hard nut Blair Bell took out the 'Thor' Trademark Award.
Meanwhile, David Yaccob won the David Cameron Memorial Medal as colts fairest and best winner ahead of Bodie Kitchingman and Jack Walsh.
PEEL THUNDER LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS
Tuckey Medal (Fairest and Best) – Jackson Merrett
Runner-up Fairest and Best – Josh Bootsma
Third place Fairest and Best – Ben Howlett
Most Consistent Player – Jordan Boullineau
Leading Goalkicker – Hayden Ballantyne
Arthur Marshall Memorial Best Young Player – Michael Randall
The 'Thor' Trademark Award – Blair Bell
COLTS AWARD WINNERS
David Cameron Memorial Medal (Fairest and Best) – David Yaccob
Fairest and Best Runner-up – Bodie Kitchingman
Past Player & Officials Encouragement Award – Jack Walsh
Most Consistent Award – Tyler Nesbitt
Best First Year Player – Dominic Dravitzki
Players Player Award – Isiah Winder
Coaches Award – Andrew Butler