By Sam Watson
ESSENDON VFL star, Aaron Heppell is heading back home to Leongatha for the 2021 season.
The 26-year-old arrived at his brother Dyson’s club in 2014 and he was named VFL captain in 2019.
In his six seasons at the Bombers, Heppell won three best and fairests and in 2018 he was named at half-back in the VFL team of the year.
In 2019, Heppell led his side to a preliminary final but they fell four goals short of the big dance against Williamstown.
Many would say his play warranted a chance at AFL level.
But his VFL retirement was announced last week and with that comes a new opportunity to be a playing assistant coach at his home club.
The midfielder will be a huge addition to Paul Carbis’ team in their quest for three premierships in four seasons.
After spending last year’s lockdown back in Leongatha, the thought of pulling on the green and yellow jumper was too compelling for Heppell.
“I thought it’d be a good time to get out and spend more time down there,” Heppell told essendonfc.com.au.
“I’ve still got school mates playing for Leongatha, and I’m keen to head down the coaching path, so this is a good opportunity.”
But it was certainly hard to wave goodbye to Windy Hill.
“Essendon has been a family for me the last seven years. I moved down when I was 18, with not much down here other than my two brothers,” Heppell said.
“I got to play in three prelims as well, so we came bloody close, but they were exciting years.”
Essendon’s incoming VFL coach, Leigh Tudor was also sad to see Heppell leave The Hangar.
He said Heppell was the sort of player you want around your club, so he’ll be a “massive loss.”
“His leadership, the way he trains, and the way he played the Essendon way made him exactly the type of person you want to lead your VFL program,” Tudor said.
But Essendon’s pain is Leongatha’s plea- sure and president Mal Mackie told the Herald Sun, Heppell’s recruitment has created a “buzz” at the club.
Carbis also told the Herald Sun that it’s given his players “a real lift.”
Heppell last played for Leongatha in 2017 when he worked in two games around his VFL commitments, but his permanent return will be against Traralgon in round 1 on April 10.