AFL: Bombers retain Dyson Heppell as captain

Dyson Heppell will again lead the Bombers, but Essendon have opted to shake up the leadership group around him Jono Searle/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

Dyson Heppell will lead Essendon for a fifth straight year, taking charge of a new leadership group that includes Zach Merrett and young gun Andrew McGrath.

Merrett and McGrath will join Michael Hurley as vice-captains to support Heppell, who has been captain since 2017.

They replace last year's leadership group of David Zaharakis, Devon Smith and Dylan Shiel.

Experienced 30-year-old defender Hurley is set to notch up his 200th AFL game this season.

Merrett will also bring important experience to the role, after his time in the club's leadership group from 2016 to 2019.

McGrath is in the leadership group for the first time in his short career, with the 22-year-old starring as a full-time midfielder in 2020.

"Despite the challenges 2020 presented both on and off the field, we've seen some important growth in this emerging playing group and we're better placed because of it," Heppell said.

"We are excited for the next phase ahead and it's a true honour to lead the group as skipper again.

"There is a really good energy at the football club under a new senior coach in Ben (Rutten) and we are all united and committed in wanting to be better across the board."

Rutten led the consultation process with key stakeholders including the playing group and coaching panel and said the club was proud of the calibre of leaders taking the group forward in 2021.

"Dyson, Michael, Zach and Andy each possess outstanding work ethic, professionalism and commitment to the Essendon Football Club," Rutten said.

"These players lead by example and are committed to the program's values, so they are each to be congratulated on this achievement.

"We also commend Dyson in being unanimously endorsed to lead this football club as captain for a fifth year. It shows the high regard he is held in by his peers."