Essendon Captain Dyson Heppell is revelling in completing his first uninterrupted pre-season in six years.
The Bombers’ skipper, who has been plagued by a myriad of post-season injuries and surgeries, couldn’t be more thrilled to have joined his teammates for his first pre-Christmas training since 2016.
Speaking to media at the side's first session of 2022, the 29-year-old believes completing high-intensity sessions and avoiding rehab work so early in a pre-season campaign is enabling him a clean-run at a thorough preparation for this year.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been cracking into it pre-Christmas and being able to train properly, so it’s been nice to be back out there,” Heppell said.
Entering his sixth season as Dons captain, Heppell will look to continue his smooth transition from being a prolific midfielder to a damaging half-back in Essendon’s resurgent side.
A now vital cog in the Dons’ backline, Heppell said continuing his ability to be a versatile player is a major focus for this season.
“What we’re trying to achieve is to have guys being able to be versatile and play a number of roles,” Heppell said.
“(My role will) primarily be off half-back, but I might push up to a wing, so we’ll see.”
Versatility may also be required for combating a third-straight COVID-19-impacted AFL season.
Approximately 20 Essendon players and officials were absent from the first day of 2022 training due to COVID-19 isolation.
Heppell says the uncertain environment is something his side will have to adapt to as it aims to improve on last year’s first-round finals exit.
“We had a few missing today as part of the health and safety protocols of the AFL,” Heppell said.
“it’s the lay of the land at the moment and we’re taking all the measures to keep everyone safe and healthy.
“Around the world in team sports, the teams that are handling it the best and staying healthy are top of the ladder and winning.
“We’ll see how it all plays out as it’s a bit of unknown at the moment.”