Essendon's 2022 leadership group (L-R): Zach Merrett, Dyson Heppell, Andrew McGrath. Picture:

ESSENDON has appointed Zach Merrett vice-captain and Andrew McGrath deputy vice-captain in a formal recognition of their leadership roles.

The Bombers on Tuesday announced their three-man leadership group, with skipper Dyson Heppell to captain the side for the sixth straight year.

He will be supported by Merrett and McGrath, while Michael Hurley, who was in the four-man leadership group last year, has dropped out as he focuses on his return from his hip injury. 

Merrett has captained the Bombers in the past and last year returned to the leadership group, won the club's best and fairest for the third time, was named an All-Australian midfielder and signed a six-year contract extension.

Dyson Heppell and Zach Merrett lead the Essendon players out for round 23, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

McGrath has been tipped as a future leader of the Bombers since the club chose him as their first ever No.1 draft pick in 2016.

He was elevated to the leadership group for the first time last season but had an injury-hit campaign, although the Bombers are confident he has returned to his vibrant best over the pre-season.

Heppell took over the captaincy in 2017 from former Bombers captain Jobe Watson