ESSENDON coach James Hird has praised Jobe Watson's leadership during the club's long-running supplements saga.

Watson has been at the forefront of the scandal, which reached a climax on Tuesday when 34 current and former players were handed not-guilty verdicts by the AFL’s Anti-Doping Tribunal.

The 2012 Brownlow medallist has shown both his authority and vulnerability across the two years, speaking on behalf of players and uniting the group despite their great distress.

He earned many plaudits for his address in the aftermath of the not-guilty verdict.

Ahead of Essendon's season-opening match with the Sydney Swans on Saturday, Hird added his voice to those praising the midfield warrior, saying Watson was much more than a fantastic person and a great footballer.

"Off the field, his leadership over the last two years has been outstanding," Hird said on Friday.

"Obviously, when you see people deal with hardship, you see what they're really like as leaders.

"He's stood up and, done more than stood up. He's been terrific.

"I think the Essendon Football Club is very fortunate to have a person like Jobe Watson as a captain."