IT WOULD be hard to envisage a more impressive first 100 games of AFL footy than those laid down by Leongatha’s Dyson Heppell.
Rising Star winner in his first season, up to 40 possessions a game, club best and fairest, three ‘best clubperson’ awards, all-Australian and now stand-in Essendon captain in the absence of Jobe Watson; he’s done it all.
Well practically all.
His mate from Leongatha, Jarryd Roughead, also had an impressive first 100 games, a feature of which was a premiership in 2008.
But, on-field or off, Dyson could not have been a better performer for his club whether it’s backing back into a pack of players at speed to take a mark or standing up in front of a blood-thirsty press pack at the height of the supplements scandal.
In either circumstance, he had the happy knack of coming away unscathed without dropping the ball.
And Essendon chairman Paul Little said as much at the chairman’s dinner before the game.
The whole Heppell family, including Dyson’s nanna, and family friends attended the event.
Little spoke of the high regard in which Dyson is held at the club, commending him on the sense of community that he has brought to the football club and also his engaging approach to the community through the media, noting that Dyson “must have gone to the Terry Daniher Media School”.
Little also remarked on what Dyson had been able to achieve in 100 games, claiming it could well be unique in the sport.
“We were invited into the rooms prior to the game to watch the boys warm up and stood at the top of the race to watch Dyson lead the team through the banner,” said Dyson’s mum Ann-Maree afterwards.
“It was a wonderful night, despite the loss. The Essendon boys combined well as a team and we felt tremendously proud of Dyson,”
Dyson had 22 disposals and kicked a goal in a strong display by him in his milestone game.
Locals who knew him as a kid and saw his athletic ability have nonetheless marvelled at what he has been able to achieve.
And you can include his own family in that number.
“We’re just really excited that he’s been able to achieve his goals and dreams and to be able to do it the way he has been terrific,” said Ann-Maree.
“But the five years have absolutely flown by.
“I was just looking back over the interview he did after his first game and the one he did with Kevin Sheedy last week and he’s exactly the same. That’s also been good too, I think.”
Dyson debuted in Round 1, on March 27, 2011, just four months after being drafted at pick eight, and collected 20 disposals in a 55-point win over the Western Bulldogs, receiving his Rising Star nomination after his first game. He went on to play 23 games in his first year.
Speaking about the passing the 100-game milestone, Dyson agreed it had really come up quickly.
“Five years in the system has just gone like that but I’m immensely proud to reach the milestone,” he said.
On the prospect of being a future captain of the club, he said he felt ready if called but hoped Jobe might continue for a few years yet.
“Really enjoying the role at the moment and I’ve learned a lot from Jobe and BJ coming in and Brent Stanton but I’d love for Jobe to be the captain for another two years or more.”
A class act on and off the field, it’s clear the club has him marked down as its future leader whether it’s next year or in future years and he’s already shown himself more than capable.
Well done, Dyson, and if you think Kevin Sheedy is a good judge, the best is yet to come.