By Mitch Guy
WITH 106 games, an AFL rising star award, a club best and fairest, an All-Australian selection, and touted as a future captain of Essendon Football Club, Leongatha’s Dyson Heppell is one of the brightest young stars in the AFL.
But last Tuesday, it all came crashing down for the 23-year-old, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport handed down two-year bans to 34 past and present Essendon players found guilty of taking banned substance Thymosin Beta-4.
Provisional suspensions saw the bans reduced to one year, meaning the 34 players will be unable to play or train at the club for the entire 2016 season.
Despite the devastating news, Heppell’s mother Ann Maree said he was doing well on Wednesday.
“They got together with the team yesterday and partners and girlfriends, and relaxed for the day,” she said.
“They were devastated to start with, then they had to take it in their stride and go ‘where now?’ They can’t even go back to their club.”
“He’s got plenty of things on his agenda and things to do. Hopefully they can stay together, that’s the main thing.”
Heppell was back in Leongatha on Wednesday celebrating younger brother Aaron’s 21st birthday, before heading away for a few days with partner Kate Turner.
The drugs saga began in February 2013 and has been a stressful three years for all involved.
Although it’s been a long saga for the Heppell family, Ann Maree is remaining positive.
“I guess were in an enviable position; Dyson has succeeded when he’s been there,” she said.
“The club has been really good to Dyson, he’s running his own fitness training business F45 in South Melbourne and Port Melbourne, building a home, doing a course – he’s got a lot of things by being at the footy club.
“I guess we’re not a negative family so we look forward; this year will be different for him, but hopefully he can work hard and come back better in 2017.
“As a mother, I’m proud of him for what he’s done and the way he’s handled himself.
“You’re always disappointed for your child but that’s life, you have ups and down in life.”
Ann Maree didn’t realise the impact the ordeal had on the family until the decision was handed down.
“After the decision in March last year when they were let off, you realise how much of a relief it was, but now there’s a little bit of negativity,” she said.
“We’ll all be OK, there’s a lot worse things that could go on in life.”
Door opens for younger Heppell
A beneficiary out of the Essendon mess could be Dyson’s younger brother, Aaron, who is now in contention for a spot on the list for this season.
The 21-year-old played the final six games for Essendon’s VFL side in 2015, including three finals.
He was also used as a top-up player for Essendon in last year’s NAB Challenge pre-season matches.
The Bombers can add 10 extra players to its list and Aaron could be a chance to grab a spot.
Dyson’s brother shows support
DYSON Heppell’s older brother Jamin was involved with Essendon as a strength and conditioning coach in 2012 when the drug saga began.
He showed his support for his brother in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“I think through the entire journey, ever since the get go, my personal perspective is one of the upmost objectivity, taking emotional connection away and looking at the facts,” Jamin said.
“The entire issue is emotionally charged, people are passionate about footy and doping – there’s so much emotion tied to it.
“Something I’ve been able to maintain is a fairly objective view.
“I reckon I can communicate something that’s for anyone willing to read or listen that can offer an objective view but always communicate the emotional weight of the event.
“(The Facebook post) was definitely a stand for my brother because I back him, but I’m also supportive of WADA that have made a stand.”
Jamin’s original post read:
“After 3.5 anxious years, the players of the Essendon Football Club caught up in the 2012 ASADA/WADA allegations have finally learned their fate. “This morning at 7.30am, 12 current Essendon players and five players of other clubs (+ 17 non-current AFL players) learned that they will be banned from playing football for the entire 2016 season.
“WADA determined that there is enough evidence to confirm that players were doping in season 2012 and as such a two-year ban has been handed down which has been back-dated 12 months.
“I believe that WADA and ASADA have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of sport and in suspending these players are sending a message to the rest of the world that doping is not on. “I support this.
“The challenging part for me is that we are talking about a group of men who are paid to do a job.
“They are paid to play football to the best of their abilities, represent their club in alignment with its values and hopefully one day win a premiership.
“Now some people may argue that each player needed to do their due diligence and therefore the individual is to blame, but if you look at any high-performing team, you must trust the people around you.
“You must believe that the people around you have your best interest at heart and the team’s best interest, otherwise you create a culture of mistrust and suspicion which will not equate to success.
“Trust in your team is fundamental in any team in any industry trying to achieve success.
“So when an expert pharmacist and biochemist tell you to take something, believing that it is for the betterment of your football and the team, you bloody-well take it.
“In a success culture there should be no need for questions, and these men believed they were working in a culture of success.
“So I blame the club for negligence of their duty of care over the players, and I just feel for the men, their families and their partners who are affected in this moment and for the rest of this year.
“Finally from an older brother to younger brother I just want to say: Dyson Heppell you are a remarkable leader and I know you will pull through this one as you always do and I know you will bring the rest of these men with you.”