DYSON Heppell believes he would be ready to take on the Essendon captaincy next year if skipper Jobe Watson relinquished the role.
Watson, who will miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery, has spoken about his disillusionment with football at stages this year as the Essendon supplements saga drags into a third season.
He has also revealed he has considered the option of stepping down as captain, a role he has held since Matthew Lloyd retired at the end of 2009.
Heppell, who this week reaches his 100th game for the club, has been stand-in captain in Watson's absence the past two weeks and feels he would be capable of filling the full-time role next year if required.
"Time will tell. We've got seven games to go this year to see how I fit into the role and I think I'd be able to do it if that was the case. But I think Jobe has plenty left in him and I'd love for him to be skipper for the next couple of years," Heppell said on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old won the NAB AFL Rising Star Award in his first season, became an All Australian and best and fairest winner last year and has been a natural leader since arriving at the club at the end of 2010.
He said he hadn't had any discussions with Watson about his plans, only that he was liking the experience of leading the Bombers in recent weeks.
"I'm really enjoying the role at the moment and I've learned a hell of a lot off the likes of Jobe and BJ (Brendon Goddard) coming in, and Brent Stanton," Heppell said.
Four-time Essendon premiership coach Kevin Sheedy, in his new marketing role at the club, was on hand as the Bombers welcomed their 60,000th member at the club's Tullamarine headquarters.
Sheedy, who coached Watson from 2003-07, said the 30-year-old's injury could be a blessing as he rediscovers his passion for the game.
"I think that Jobe's done a magnificent job as captain. He's kept the team and the place pretty well together through a difficult period and sometimes you need to step back," Sheedy said.
"This injury might be really great for him from a point of view like that, and he can have a really good look at what he wants to do with his footy. He's got a lot of good footy in him, and this forced rest might be a re-energiser."
Kevin Sheedy and Dyson Heppell at Essendon's Tullamarine base. Picture: Getty Images
After averaging nearly 29 disposals a game across 2014 and blossoming into one of the competition's most damaging midfielders, Heppell's form has not quite reached those heights this year.
In 15 games so far he has averaged 25 disposals, but hasn't quite had the same influence on games. He hopes to recapture his best in the remaining seven games of the year.
"I started the season quite well and I've played in a different couple of roles over the previous five or six weeks, and trying to deal with taggers at this time of the year," Heppell said.
"At stages I've been a little bit inconsistent but I put pretty high expectations on myself coming off a year like last and probably haven't hit those standards I did last year.
"We've still got a fair bit of footy to play this year and I'm looking to finish strongly."