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NAB AFL Rising Star round one: Dyson Heppell

THE PLAUDITS from Essendon's round one win have continued with Dyson Heppell earning the round one nomination for the NAB AFL Rising Star.

Heppell starred with 20 disposals in the 55-point win over the Bulldogs as a running half-back pushing up the wing.

While first-gamers are rarely certain selections, Heppell was impossible to ignore after several stellar performances in the NAB Cup.

He says the pre-season competition prepared him for the home and away season.

"I think the NAB Cup did help, especially the grand final. I guess it took a little bit to settle in but once the game got underway it wasn't too bad," Heppell told afl.com.au.

Heppell was not the only debutant for the Bombers on Sunday, as James Hird was coaching the side for the first time.

The 18-year-old spoke briefly with Hird about what to expect in his debut as well as consulting his teammates.

"A few of the boys shared the experiences of their first games. That definitely helped to speak to players like Dustin Fletcher and Jason Winderlich," he said.

"It's fantastic to be down at the club and there is a really good feeling around the place at the moment. It's exciting to be part of Essendon at this time of year."

Heppell was a surprise selection for the Bombers when went at pick eight at last season's NAB AFL Draft. He had been rated a potential top five pick but slipped down the pecking order after stories of groin injuries surfaced.

He said he didn't know what the fuss was about.

"The groin is not a problem at all. I haven't felt it at all. That was completely out of proportion. I had no groin trouble at all," he said.

The cautionary tales might have been inaccurate but they were a blessing in disguise. By getting to Essendon, Heppell became the only one of the first 10 draft picks to remain in their home state.

"It's been a dream come true for me to end up at the Bombers. Anywhere would have been nice but it definitely helps to stay in your home state and be not too far away from home," he said.

While he says he would be happy to move anywhere, Heppell has a strong network of support around him as evidenced by his debut game, which was
attended by roughly 50 of his friends and family.
They can all be assured they'll have plenty of chances to watch him play senior football as he looks set for a big season ahead.

While the opening round nominee becomes a natural favourite to win the award, Heppell downplays his chances.

"I don't know about that. There are a lot of fantastic young players in the system now. It would be a pretty tough gig to take that out but you never know," he said.

"I suppose Dave Swallow and a lot of Gold Coast boys would be up there. Dion Prestia is a fantastic player. Tom Liberatore as well. There are a lot of young boys out there who would be deserving winners."