Calder’s Matt Merlo is your uncompromising inside midfielder who is able to do his job every week and compliment the rest of the midfield. He captained the club to a preliminary final and was 20 minutes away from booking a place on the ground for the TAC Cup Grand Final. It wasn’t to be, but Merlo’s season is still one to remember.
Essendon told him he was in the Jobe Watson mould. That’s some pretty high praise coming from a club who rests their hopes upon their captain. A strong bodied clearance machine who thrives under the pressure of being captain, Calder’s Matt Merlo is one smokey who could make the transition to AFL level.
After finishing second in Calder’s best and fairest and winning the Academic achievement award, Merlo has set himself up for clubs to come knocking. Whilst he admitted contact has been “minimal”, there are whispers that Essendon is seriously interested later on in the draft. They are also considering their NSW Scholarship player, and fellow Cannon Jedd Clothier.
“I’ve spoken to a few VFL clubs and had some feedback from some AFL teams, but the contact has been minimal,” Merlo said. In the circumstance that he goes undrafted, Merlo would try his luck at VFL level, saying that his body was ready for it.
Merlo is a strong inside midfielder, and moulds his game around Sam Mitchell and Jobe Watson. Over the preseason, he hopes to work on his speed and endurance; “I want to get faster over that first 10 to 20 metres, but on the same token, be able to cover the ground.”
Aside from the injuries, Merlo was content with his year. Although, he thought from an internal point of view, the Cannons underachieved. “We thought we were the second best team all year.” Merlo believed the Cannons could have beaten the Eastern Ranges, but the key to their downfall was the “lack of consistency”.
Whilst this year’s Cannons crop might lack some star power, that recruiters might ogle over with Geelong Falcons and Eastern Ranges, Calder has a number of players who could go on to become very handy AFL players. In particular Merlo praised the likes of Jake Owen, Aaron Christensen, Jimmy Ferry and Clothier, all of whom got the call up to the state combine.
Away from football, Merlo is studying Commerce at Monash and hopes that he can get all the qualifications he can to set up a life away from football. While ideally he would love to play AFL football, if it wasn’t to be, Merlo would be content competing at state level while working and studying.
Bomber fans might have something to look forward to if they manage to snare Clothier and Merlo, as they both have the bodies and mindsets of AFL footballers. Regardless though, Merlo’s football career is far from over and with all the state level mature-agers that become success stories, his story could just be beginning.