Dyson Heppell is the new Essendon AFL captain, replacing fellow formerly-banned Bomber Jobe Watson in the role following months of speculation.
It brings an end to Watson’s seven-year reign – which included the Bombers’ supplement saga – after he replaced Matthew Lloyd following the 2009 season,
Cale Hooker and youngster Zach Merrett are vice-captains, while Watson and last year’s stand-in captain Brendon Goddard remain in a seven-man leadership group, along with Michael Hurley and Joe Daniher.
The 24-year-old Heppell, the No.8 pick in the 2010 draft, has played 106 games since his 2011 senior debut.
He was vice-captain under Watson before they were among 34 current and past Essendon players to receive doping bans last year because of the club’s supplements debacle.
Of those players, Heppell and Watson are among 10 players who are now back at Essendon for this season.
In 2014, Heppell won the club best and fairest award and was an All-Australian selection.
Watson captained the Bombers from 2010 until last year’s bans, with Brendon Goddard then taking over for the season.
“While I inherit this enormous responsibility from Jobe, and acknowledge the great job BJ (Goddard) did as stand in skipper last year, it’s important for me to be an authentic leader of the club and to develop my own leadership style,” Heppell said in a statement.
Young star Merrett has been rewarded with added responsibility after an excellent 2016 season where he was the runaway winner of the Bombers’ best-and-fairest award.
Defender Hooker, who also spent last year on the sidelines due to the doping ban, has played 133 games.
Bombers chief executive Xavier Campbell thanked Watson and Goddard for their leadership services, while coach John Worsfold praised Heppell for his ability to get the best out of people.
“The seven members of the leadership group are super professionals who are passionate about helping Essendon become the most inclusive, successful and respected sporting organisation in the country,” Worsfold said.