After six seasons as leading Essendon, Dyson Heppell has stood down as the club’s captain effective immediately.

The 30-year old informed his teammates of his decision on Friday, amonth before the start of the season.

Heppell took over the captaincy from Jobe Watson for the 2017 season and is the Dons’ sixth-longest serving skipper. 

“As a little tacker, playing AFL footy was a dream, let alone playing for the club I supported and then further to that, becoming the captain of that club,” Heppell said.

“Over the past six years, I had enormous pride and respect for my role as captain.

“Leadership can be a tough caper at times, but it has given me so much joy and has played a big part in my growth as a person, player and teammate.”

Heppell led the club in 107 matches, including three finals games. 

Essendon president Dave Barham hailed Heppell’s commitment to the club in recent years.

“Dyson Heppell is the ultimate team man. Not for the first time, Dyson has done what he thinks is in the best interest of the club and the team,” Barham said.

“On behalf of all supporters, thank you for your contribution as captain of our club.

“We all look forward to the next part of your playing career and remain forever grateful for your outstanding contribution to this club.”

Coach Brad Scott similarly praised Heppell’s decision to stand aside. 

“Dyson has led the club through a difficult time in its long and proud history and has done so with great commitment,” Scott said.

“On behalf of the coaching staff and his fellow players, I thank him for his great service and look forward to working with him as an ongoing valuable contributor to the senior playing group.”

The Bombers are expected to name a new captain next week. 

Zach Merrett, last year’s vice-captain, is favoured to take over the role, while Andrew McGrath is also considered a chance.