I think Hepp is having a good, but not great season.
Comparing his form to 2014, 2015 is problematic, mainly because he is playing in a different midfield, and with different roles.
I say roles, because as others have posted, the modern midfield set up is an interchangeable one, with players adjusting according to who else is in there, what the oppositions doing etc etc.
In 2014 / 2015 Hepp was alternating between a pure inside mid - getting first hands on the ball and hand balling quickly on, and playing the sweeper defensive mid role behind the contest. He’d rarely run forward of the contest, but relied on finding just enough space to deliver to a team mate by hand or foot.
Both these roles also entailed more tackling either in packs, or as the defensive mid.
The stats would bear this out.
This year Hepp is often playing as the mid who receives / grabs the ball from the contest or stoppage and bursts forward of the play.
This is a significant change. It plays to some of his strengths- clean hands, reading the drop of the ball, the ability to assess options upfield, - but also highlights some of his weaknesses.
He’s never had explosive pace over the first five metres, he’s always swung a bit wide to the left with a poor right foot, and even in his best years was prone to kick slightly over or short of a leading target.
It also requires him to make repeated flat out runs with opponents hot on his hammer.
As someone, Munna I think, mentioned he has tended to play very well in bursts then fade a bit from the game.
I reckon it’s this different style of effort that’s responsible, especially returning to match fitness.
He can’t just glide around the park as he used to.
There are two ongoing issues here. Hepp will I hope continue to learn and improve in this role. By all accounts he’s a driven personality, despite the laid back exterior.
The second is a broader personnel one.
Zach and even Zaharakis are playing the defensive sweeper role. Do we want or need to change their role?
Will Parish or McGrath take over this burst forward role next year, giving Hepp a bit more flexibility and a breather?
Or is this our primary recruitment need?
I’d argue that it is, more so than a contested pure inside mid. Unless we pin our hopes on Big Boi or Laverde stepping up another gear I think we’re leaving too much to an unsupported Hepp.