DYSON Heppell will again lead Essendon this season as captain, with the Bombers opting for a smaller leadership group in 2019.

The club announced a five-man leadership group on Wednesday, with Heppell remaining skipper.

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Zach Merrett (vice-captain), David Myers, Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia have also retained their places in the leadership group from last season, however key defensive pair Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker have dropped out.

No new members have been brought in, meaning the Bombers will be headed by a five-man squad.

Coach John Worsfold said the reduced numbers in Essendon's leadership group meant the club was keen for players outside the leaders to take on important roles.

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"We feel all five men bring strong and diverse qualities that will ensure the growth of the playing group across a number of values and we hope this resonates on-field too," Worsfold said.  

"I'd also like to acknowledge both Cale Hooker and Michael Hurley who are terrific leaders and made a strong contribution to the group last season.

"With their experience and knowledge of our game, they will continue to support the leadership group and the development of our younger players.

"The structure of the leadership group has been streamlined this season, however we have a strong focus on the entire group more broadly to own their personal leadership capacities and compete - week in and week out."  

It will be Heppell's third year as Essendon captain, after taking on the role ahead of the 2017 season.