Like nine of his suspended Essendon teammates, Dyson Heppell's 2016, in football terms, never got going. But he did still have a season of sorts. And one which, really, only finished a week or so ago.
It was a season of learning about other things. Travel and the world beyond the AFL bubble. The media. Being a fan instead of a footballer. And real estate and home renovation.
That last box was ticked off the Saturday before last when Heppell sold the four-bedroom house in Moonee Ponds he'd bought and completely refurbished.
If this was a Block style grand final, it was one which went to extra time after the house was passed in at auction. But Heppell secured the win in the post-auction negotiations, another landmark to go with his recent return from football exile and back into the Essendon fold.
"I bought it late last year and it was a seven-month project," he says. "To be honest, I didn't hammer one nail, but put a lot of time into the design and working with the engineers. I actually learned a hell of a lot throughout the process. And in the end, I got what I wanted."
Like many of the banned Essendon contingent, Heppell satisfied some wanderlust, spending eight weeks in Europe with his girlfriend Kate and some time in Croatia with a large flock of Bombers, "one of the best weeks of my life".
He watched "15 or 16" Essendon games with the rest of the punters. "First one I went to was the Melbourne win in round two, so that was really exciting," he says. "Supporters from all sides were fantastic to me, really."
And the media work? "It made me keep an eye on what was happening with trends in the game and whatnot. It was fantastic to see a side [Western Bulldogs] buck the trend and win. I think it gives a bit of hope to every side in the competition."
The Heppell who returned to the club's high performance centre only a few weeks ago was the same laconic-talking, mop-haired favourite of the fans, but consequently, one perhaps even more suited to assuming the mantle of Essendon's next captain than he already was.
That is still to be determined, with the Bombers' players to vote on the position. It will still be Jobe Watson's should he wish to retain the title.
But on the day Fairfax Media spoke to Heppell, the same day coach John Worsfold expanded on the extent to which Watson's Brownlow Medal agony had affected him, the prospect of Heppell being anointed permanently in the position seemed imminent. And he's ready for it.
"I feel I'm ready," he says. "I certainly feel like I've developed a lot over the past few years. There's a lot of strong candidates among the group, and ultimately it's up to the players to guide it. We'll go through that process and whoever it might be, their time will come."
It's fair to say, though, that dependent upon Watson's feelings towards the job, Heppell is the odds-on favourite. And, perversely, missing an entire year of football may only have strengthened those claims, the key word being perspective.
"Footy is a real bubble and you do get so caught up in it," he says. "Europe was probably the first time I'd really switched off from footy in the six years here. Even in the off-seasons, it's always still in the back of your mind. So it was just good to completely switch off and realise there's a lot more to the world and a lot more to me as a person than just a footballer."
Will that make him a better leader?
"Yeah, no doubt," Heppell says. "It gives you perspective on life in general. I take lots of lessons out of this year and what we've been through this whole time. It's just given me a more measured look on life, and I think probably the ability to relay that to a lot of guys as well. When you're in your first or second years, you come into the system and it's all just gung ho footy, footy, footy. You've really got to look at getting that balance."
The captaincy mantle certainly didn't impact on Heppell's form when he took over from the injured Watson for the last nine games of 2015, finishing third in the best and fairest, his fourth consecutive top-three placing.
"I absolutely loved the experience. It was probably a pretty rough time when I came in, with a lot of media speculation [about both the supplements scandal and James Hird's position as coach], and our performances weren't too flash.
"But being thrust into a situation like that, I think I learned a lot through those circumstances and it really developed me as a leader and a person, so I'm really thankful for that opportunity."
Grateful, too, to the man who would be passing over the baton. "I've learned a hell of a lot from him, in a leadership sense and also as a footballer," Heppell says of Watson.
"I felt quite sad reading his [Brownlow] statement. It just showed his true character and his values and what he stands for. We just want what's best for him, to do whatever we can to make him enjoy life and enjoy footy and really want to be around this environment."
And that job should be easier at the moment than it has been arguably for four years. Essendon coach John Worsfold says there are now 29 players on the list who haven't played together. But while familiarity will take some time, on paper, there's some impressive names.
"You look at the list now, and there is a lot of experience there, so I reckon we can gel pretty quickly as a group," Heppell says. "That's super exciting, it really is. The vibe that's going on around the place at the moment is just outstanding, and that's something that we really need to harness."
Heppell takes a quick look around the locker room as his teammates prepare for an open training session in front of a couple of thousand fans, and smiles broadly. The emotional baggage is gone, and the weight lifted from his shoulders is almost physically tangible rather than just metaphoric.
"Honestly, it's massive," he says. "It's the first time in a long time we can walk into this footy club with a smile on our face and not have to worry about anything, what's going to be in the media, or what meetings we need to have. We can just come in and enjoy each other's company and enjoy working hard together."
And as valuable as the last year has proved, finally again working hard on honing football skills rather than those to do with home renovation.