Heppell takes over as Bombers AFL captain

Jobe Watson left the captaincy call to his AFL teammates and Essendon, happy to resume the role or hand it over permanently.

Emphasising the feel of a new era at the Bombers, they went with 24-year-old Dyson Heppell to take over from Watson and Brendon Goddard, last year’s caretaker skipper.

Watson and Goddard will lend their experience to a seven-man leadership group, with Zach Merrett and Cale Hooker the vice-captains.

There was speculation before Wednesday’s announcement that Watson had ruled himself out as a candidate.

But coach John Worsfold said he had met Watson before the decision and the star midfielder made it clear he was happy to put up his hand again.

Watson and Heppell are among 10 Essendon players returning from last year’s doping ban, arising from the club’s supplements debacle.

Few people involved in the saga have felt the pressure more than Watson, who has lost his 2012 Brownlow Medal because of the ban.

“I was very open to see what Jobe’s thoughts were and, as you’d expect from someone of Jobe’s experience and stature, it wasn’t just ‘what’s good for me?’ – he was looking at what’s good for the club and the playing group,” Worsfold said.

“Jobe was more than comfortable that if he was required as captain, he would have fulfilled all (captaincy) duties with a real positive manner.

“But he felt the playing group, and Dyson in particular, (were) really ready to step up to it.”

Watson was captain for six years before last year’s suspension.

Worsfold’s meeting with him was an extra element to the captaincy selection process.

Heppell, the club’s best-and-fairest winner and an All-Australian midfielder in 2014, has played 106 games for the Bombers and is also a popular choice.

An intriguing factors in who Essendon went for as captain was that there was no weak candidate out of Heppell, Watson or Goddard.

The coach said 12 months ago, Watson had earmarked Heppell as a future captain.

Heppell said the captaincy was a great honour, adding Watson and Goddard had been great mentors.

“It’s a very exciting time and a great vibe around the club,” he said.

“They’re two different leaders – I’ve learned a lot from them, but I will bring my own authenticity to this leadership role,” he said.

“Jobe and Brendon have been enormous support for me, I spoke to both of them last night and I’m very thankful for their support.”

It means the coin toss for the round-one blockbuster against Hawthorn will feature two new captains and old teammates from the same Leongatha club – Heppell and Jarryd Roughead.

“I had a bit of a ‘yak’ with ‘Rough’ the other day,” Heppell said.

“It’s pretty enormous – it will be a great moment for the two of us.”

Heppell is also confident he and the other nine returning players will have a major impact this year at Essendon.

Three of them – Tom Bellchambers, Hooker and Michael Hurley – are injured.

“We’ve been monitored really well by the fitness staff, the coaching group and we’ve been hitting plenty of bodies, getting that physical contact back,” Heppell said.

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
Stay up to date with the latest sports news
Follow our social accounts to get exclusive content and all the latest sporting news!