DYSON Heppell will return to the field for Essendon as the club's captain after the Bombers officially unveiled their leadership group on Wednesday. 

The star midfielder, who missed all of last season while serving an anti-doping ban, takes on the position having been groomed for the role in recent years.

The 24-year-old was named vice-captain of the club ahead of the 2016 season before the WADA-imposed suspensions were handed down, and was also stand-in skipper for the Bombers in the second half of 2015 as Jobe Watson sat out with a shoulder injury.

Heppell will be supported by Cale Hooker and Zach Merrett, who have been named vice-captains.

Former skipper Jobe Watson retains a spot in the club's leadership group which will also include Brendon Goddard, Michael Hurley and Joe Daniher.

Heppell said he was extremely proud to be named as skipper.

“It’s an absolute honour to be named the captain of this great club,” he said.

"Jobe (Watson) has been a tremendous captain - he’s one of the great leaders of our game, and he’s been a wonderful mentor to me over the journey."

The captaincy caps a swift rise for Heppell, who won the NAB AFL Rising Star in 2011 and was in the club's top-three in its best and fairest every year between 2012-2015.

He took out the Crichton Medal in 2014, when he was also named in the All Australian team. Heppell took some time to mull over returning to the Bombers during his 12-month ban last year, but eventually decided to honour his long-term deal with the club, which ties him to Tullamarine until the end of 2020. 

Heppell takes on the captaincy after Goddard's stint as leader of Essendon last year, which came following the Court of Arbitration's decision to suspend 34 past and present Bombers, including Heppell and then-skipper Watson.

Dyson Heppell leads the Bombers out for their intra-club game on Wednesday. Picture: Getty Images

Watson had held the role from 2010 after taking over from champion goalkicker Matthew Lloyd and led the Bombers in 106 games. The 32-year-old's form on the track has been encouraging for the Bombers over summer, with coach John Worsfold saying last week his pre-season had been "outstanding". 

But he will take more of a back seat in his return to the game following a dramatic four years in the spotlight, which culminated in him giving up his 2012 Brownlow Medal.

Merrett's ascension to the vice-captaincy comes after the 21-year-old skippered the team in the latter stages of last season on the way to claiming his maiden best and fairest.

Hooker's status as one of the most respected players at the club was reflected in the decision to make him a joint vice-captain. He will play as a key forward this year after proving his ability to hit the scoreboard in the back end of 2015.

Matthew Leuenberger gets an awkward kick away at Tullamarine. Picture: Getty Images