Dyson Heppell has decided to step down from the Essendon captaincy only days after coach Brad Scott said the role was his if he wanted to keep it.
The 30-year-old utility, who sat in the captain’s spot for Essendon’s team photo on Tuesday, told teammates and coaches he would be stepping down on Thursday morning.
Heppell has held the role since 2017 when he succeeded Jobe Watson.
He said it had been a privilege to captain the club he grew up supporting.
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“As a little tacker, playing AFL footy was a dream, let alone playing for the club I supported and then further to that, becoming the captain of that club,” Heppell said.
“Over the past six years, I had enormous pride and respect for my role as captain.
“Leadership can be a tough caper at times, but it has given me so much joy and has played a big part in my growth as a person, player and teammate.”
Essendon president Dave Barham said the Bombers veteran was the “ultimate team man”.
“Not for the first time, Dyson has done what he thinks is in the best interest of the club and the team,” Barham said.
“On behalf of all supporters, thank you for your contribution as captain of our club.
“We all look forward to the next part of your playing career and remain forever grateful for your outstanding contribution to this club.”
Last week, Essendon coach Brad Scott said there was a “strong likelihood” that Heppell would continue in the role for a seventh year.
“We’ve said all along that Dyson Heppell is our captain, and that will remain up until we go through our process,” Scott said.
“I suspect there’s a strong likelihood that will still be the case.
“I’ll have a lot of ongoing discussions with Dyson, but we’ll finalise our process before we play the Gold Coast in some unofficial match sim and then we’ll be in a position to announce that.”
Zach Merrett looms as the frontrunner for the vacant position, but rebounding defenders Andrew McGrath and Mason Redman could also put their hands up for the role.
Merrett (vice-captain) and McGrath (deputy vice-captain) were the only other members of a three-man Bombers leadership group in 2022.
Essendon will appoint its new captain and settle on a leadership group structure for 2023 next week.
Story Credit: news.com.au