Essendon captain Dyson Heppell believes defender Michael Hurley is making positive strides in his bid to play football again.

Hurley, a two-time All-Australian, has not featured for the Dons since 2020 after battling a serious hip infection last year, an injury which almost forced the 31-year-old into a premature retirement.

After vowing mid-last year to play again, the star defender is steadily building towards prospectively playing football at some stage in 2022.

And while an exact date or timeframe is still to be determined for his return, Heppell believes Hurley is advancing in the right direction.

“He’s progressing well and particularly over the last six weeks, he’s made some great inroads,” Heppell said.

“It’s probably a bit too soon (for him to play round one) in the way he’s progressing. There’s no real timeframe on it honestly and he’s not putting any cap on himself for when he can return.

“He’ll just keep working with the fitness staff and physios in being really diligent with his program and put no timeframe on that. He’s in really good spirits, he seems really healthy and he’s moving around quite well.”

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ICYMI | Hurley feature

Watch Michael Hurley's sit-down interview with Tim Watson, courtesy of Channel 7.

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Despite not playing a match last season, Hurley still had a significant impact on Essendon’s resurgent season.

The Bombers’ vice-captain is always a presence around the confines of the NEC Hangar and has been working closely with a host of the Dons’ promising young talent as a mentor.

Hurley’s leadership and personality is something which Heppell admires for the positive influence it has on the whole playing group.

“He’s the heart and soul of this club, he’s a real loveable type of bloke," he said.

“The energy he brings around the club is fantastic, and it’d be bloody good to have him back on track.”