Outgoing Essendon VFL vice-captain Heath Hocking wants fans to ‘stick true’ with the Dons in 2020 following their preliminary final exit on Sunday.

The VFL Bombers trailed by just 16 points against Williamstown at the main break, but ultimately couldn’t get any closer in the second half.

Despite the unfortunate end to what was otherwise a season full of growth and improvement, Hocking believes the defeat will be a great learning for the group.

“It’s a bit disappointing to finish in a preliminary final – we started (the year) really well which set us up for the whole season, but we probably came into the finals having lost more than we won,” the retiree said.

“The brand of footy we were playing matched with Richmond – the best side in the comp – in that first final, which showed the development and growth of our group.

“But (Williamstown) is a seasoned, campaigned team that has made about 14 preliminary finals and know how it’s done – they played a lot better than us today.”

Sunday marked the VFL Dons’ second consecutive prelim, finishing just one win away from what would’ve been Essendon’s first VFL/reserves Grand Final berth since 1999.

Hocking hopes the result also teaches the group how it can take the next step.

“(It shows us) where we need to get to. For our guys, it’ll be to learn from it, and be better in the contest,” he said.

“I think we probably improved from last year so if we can continue to do that, it’ll only hold us in good stead.”

Having captained the side in 2018, Hocking selflessly relinquished the role to give Aaron Heppell a chance this year, who he believes has flourished.

“‘Hepp’ has been fantastic. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching how he plays and I’ve been giving him advice, but in the end I think he had it under control all year.

“He just grew as the season went on – I’m spewing we couldn’t get to a Grand Final for him.”

The 31-year-old retiree managed 126 senior games for Essendon before spending the last two seasons with the VFL side, and he had one final message for the Bombers’ faithful.

“Just stick true. I put everything I had into playing at Essendon, and while it saddens me that I have to move on, for my own health and wellbeing, I think it’s time.

“I’m still keen to watch and give support to the boys where I can, but just stick true with the boys – they’re in a fantastic spot to move on, so I’m really excited.”

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