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Heppell buoyed as Bombers build solid AFL form

3 minute read

Former Essendon captain Dyson Heppell says he's having the most fun of his career, thanks to the Bombers' strong form and the people around him at the club.

DYSON HEPPELL. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The brightest time in Dyson Heppell's eventful AFL career is coming late.

The former Essendon captain says the Bombers' encouraging form and the people around him at the club mean he has never enjoyed the AFL this much.

Essendon replaced GWS in the top four with last Saturday's massive home win and they will start strong favourites on Sunday against last-placed North Melbourne.

Heppell, 32, has played 244 senior games since his 2011 debut.

"When you're sitting third, round nine, it's quite an exciting outlook," he said on Wednesday.

"But just in terms of the general vibe and the joy I'm getting from my footy, it's probably the most fun I've had in my career, which is pretty cool.

"You get a bit of perspective later on in your career, but obviously the quality and character of the players and coaches and staff that we have at the club, it leads to a really healthy environment.

"Brad (coach Brad Scott) has really led the way in that."

As opposition fans are quick to note, Essendon have not won a final since 2004, and Heppell has played in five losing elimination finals.

He was also one of the 34 players banned in 2016 because of the club's drugs debacle.

Earlier this year, Scott said Essendon owed Heppell a debt of gratitude for how he had behaved through their darkest period.

Heppell said a big reason for Essendon's improved form so far this season was the work the players have done on their mindset.

"There's a really measured approach ... in terms of how we're going about it, making sure everyone does everything right," he said.

For all their improvement, Scott warned of a "punch in the face" from the opposition if Essendon do not maintain their effort, and Heppell said they must bring their best against North.

"North are a dangerous side, they have a hell of a lot of talent, so if you don't show up and bring your best you can get rolled, no worries," he said.

"Obviously the fans are up-and-about, we're sitting in a healthy position nearly midway through the year ... but we know how quickly things can turn."

As Essendon improve, their fans are gaining voice.

"We had a huge attendance on the weekend against GWS and it certainly helps, it gives you an extra lift late in the game. The support has been greatly appreciated," Heppell said.

While they have lost ruckman Sam Draper for several weeks with knee surgery, defenders Zach Reid and Jordan Ridley are closing on returns.

"That's the most exciting thing, we're heading towards a really healthy list," Heppell said.

"It does make for selection issues, but all the good teams have that."

Heppell was speaking at a Wednesday promotion with Melbourne Storm captain Harry Grant and former Wallaby Nick Cummins for the Tradie clothing brand.

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