NO amount of painkillers could dull the pain, but Dyson Heppell didn't care. He was going to take his broken foot into late 2019-season matches to help his team qualify for finals.

Heppell didn't seek praise for his courage back then, and doesn't want it now. But when asked last week about the trauma of that period, for the first time publicly he was prepared to provide insight into the mental toughness required to play matches of football when every step produces excruciating pain.


"What I figured, and all the advice I had been given was that I couldn't do anything worse to it - it was cactus anyway, it was broken, it sucked," Heppell told

13:27 Mins
Published on

It eats at you: Dyson's challenge

Essendon skipper Dyson Heppell opens up to Damian Barrett about his foot injury, and the challenges he faced last season

Published on

"Guys have been through it before, I have spoken to other guys who have done it before. The hardest thing was the lack of preparation. You'd fire up on game day, grit it through a game on a few painkillers, then rehab and recovery and not being able to train.

"I was going into a game hitting in hope. It had its massive challenges but at the same time I was able to feel I was better off for doing it, knowing that I could push myself mentally, and learnt new tactics on how to prepare that side of my mind, and to stay sharp … and to scrape through (to the finals), I haven't seen much finals action in my career …"

Heppell continued: "She's certainly pain. You are immersed in the moment at hand … it was pretty ginger, pretty ginger, it was sore. I'm not going to say I'm tough as nails, because there are guys who play through stuff every single week.

Dyson Heppell in action during the 2019 elimination final against West Coast. Picture: AFL Photos

"It is a major distraction trying to perform at your best when you have got something there that is constantly giving you a signal, and a referral, and something that is always on your mind … no amount of painkillers could dull that, no, no, no."

Heppell's foot injuries continued in 2020, restricting him to just three matches. He is entering his fifth season as Bombers' captain in 2021.

Late last year, during another troubled season for the Bombers and for the first time in his football life, Heppell reacted angrily publicly to criticisms levelled at his club.


In the interview, he conceded his normally positive demeanour crashed.

"I don't fake positivity, or ham it up, I am an optimistic bloke, but that is not to say I don't go through some shitty periods as well, it certainly gets very challenging," Heppell said.

"Over the years you learn to block out the noise. (Last year) there were times though I felt were uncalled for, with the commentary around and about the club.

"Some things said were just blatantly untrue. It eats at you a bit. For me, I have been always been able to not focus too much on what is being said outside the four walls, but it gets to a point where everyone starts believing the hype and hysteria of what is being said in the media. It definitely did irk me last year."