Almanac Footy: Two Merretts and a Rohan of Cobden



Two former Cobden Primary School students and a former teacher.



Like many Bomber supporters I was absolutely rapt with Zach Merrett committing to a further six seasons with Essendon. The future certainly looks rosy for our great team. Zach’s signing also rekindled memories of my time teaching at Cobden Primary School.


I was fortunate to have taught there during the time Zach and Jackson Merrett, and Gary Rohan attended the school. Cobden was the centre of a very active and supportive sporting community, the school reflected this with many outstanding athletes in many sports.


Gary Rohan, a long, lean skinny kid, tough as old boots, he  just loved to run. He ran and ran, and ran. The annual cross-country run always featured Gary on the podium. His footballing skills were pretty good at that age; he was fearless, the ball always his object, and he had quite a competitive streak about him. Gary could also be a bit of a show off at times!


Jackson Merrett was  quiet, unassuming but deep down a thinker, and he strived to be a winner. Like Rohan, he was also a very good runner, effortless in style, and he could run all day. And more often than not there was a football in his hands. After school I’d be correcting schoolwork or preparing for the next day and from my classroom overlooking our sports oval there I would see Jacko running up and down the length of the oval, bouncing the football, occasionally kicking and having shots at goal. Even after he left primary school I’d still see him at the oval training. Sometimes driving home to Colac I would pass him either leaving or returning home, running with a footy in his hands.


Zach Merrett was the most skilful and gifted of all the students at school in both football and cricket during my time there. Very nimble and quick, terrific reflexes even in Grade 2. He was probably one of the most competitive juniors I came across, very determined and keen to do well. It went without saying he would succeed in sport but many thought it would be cricket. Zach won a cricket scholarship to Melbourne Grammar, a clear indication of the potential many saw in him. I must admit I always thought he was too small to be a footballer let alone the league footballer he has become. At an inter-school footy carnival former Fitzroy, Brisbane Bears, and St Kilda footballer Bernie Harris (he kicked Brisbane’s first ever goal!) was coaching one of the competing schools mentioned to me he believed Zach had the makings to be a League footballer. He could spot a champion. 


As an Essendon supporter it has been trying times for Bombers followers in recent years but this year a light is beginning to shine ever more brightly at the end of the premiership tunnel. New recruits,  and younger players combining with experienced team mates have added that blend a team requires to be a success. And with Zach signing on for another six years things continue to look up in Bomber land.




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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Cobden has a remarkable record – and one that bobs up from time to time on the site. I think Peter Clark featured a player from Cobden recently too.

    Nice yarn thanks Col.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    A really pleasant read, Col. You obviously knew these kids well, and could spot their sporting abilities at a young age.

    It’s always interesting to see, too, which school champions stick at their chosen sport and ‘make it’ at senior level, and which ones go down other paths.

  3. Wayne Matthews says

    CGR, your story has evoked a thought. Could Zach and Jackson Merrett be related to Thorold Merrett who played football for Cobden in the Hampden League before a distinguished career at Collingwood during the 1950’s? I recall Thorold Merrett, who played on the wing, unfortunately retired from football due to a broken leg. He later joined with Test cricket captain Lindsay Hassett in the sports store business.

  4. Rod Oaten says

    What a great story Col. I certainly agree with your views about the future of the Dons, I really enjoy watching them play this year.

  5. Nice story Colin. Interesting to get a perspective from early on in people’s lives.

    And I like the painting in the background too. Who owned/owns that, as a matter of interest. Don’t suppose you know the name of the artist?

  6. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks for the comments everyone.
    Jan – the image in the background hangs in the foyer at the Essendon FC facilities in Tullamarine.

  7. Yes, I like the view you present from your desk looking out onto an oval of kids running about on the field, almost wondering what their futures may or may not hold.

  8. Thorold Merrett is Jackson and Zachs great uncle.

  9. A lovely reminiscence Col. Thanks.

    I seem to recall reading that Ben Cunnington and Gary Rohan were great mates and next-door neighbours when playing for Geelong Falcons and would travel to training and games together. Where did Ben go to school?

  10. Peter Fuller says

    Fine article Col, and I can understand that you are feeling optimistic about the Bombers’ future. When you’ve endured such a dire few years, you deserve the prospect of better days ahead. I didn’t realise you had a personal connection with the town.
    I have (extended) family connections with Cobden, a third generation of my cousins’ families are making their way through the juniors.
    I heartily endorse JTH’s note about the quality footballers who have been making their way in the big time for decades. I saw the Lord twins and John Rantall representing the town in the early 1960s before going on to storied careers in the VFL. There have been plenty of others in the intervening years. Ben Cunnington and your three scholars stand on the shoulders of giants.

  11. CITRUS BOB says

    Garry Jnr. Patrick Danger and Travis Boak all went to school together at Belmont High.

  12. Keiran Croker says

    Col, yes Bombers finally heading in the right direction with Zach one of the keys. Might Gary, just like Forrest Gump, run into a premiership team?

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Col.

    With Fremantle’s Sean Darcy in the ruck alongside Merrett, Cunnington and Sam Walsh (who spent his early years in Cobden but didn’t play for the Cobden Bombers), Cobden can boast of an almost unrivalled midfield in the AFL.

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