Aaron Heppell... comfortably his best game. Photo: AFL Media/Getty Images
Heppell the younger eyes chance to make Bombers
September 12, 2015 - 7:05PM
Aaron Heppell says he is in the midst of a three-year plan to perhaps join his brother Dyson on Essendon's AFL list.
Coming off what Bombers VFL coach Hayden Skipworth labelled as "comfortably his best game for the club" in a best-on-ground performance in the Bombers' 66-point thrashing of Footscray in Saturday's semi-final, Heppell maintains a realistic approach to his draft hopes given his constant contact with the Bombers recruiting staff.
The exciting defensive midfielder also had a stint with Essendon's AFL team in a NAB Challenge match earlier this year as a top-up player.
"Coming through TAC Cup, I probably didn't play quite as good a footy as I would have liked to really give myself a really good chance [in the 2013 AFL draft]," Heppell said.
"But I took it on the chin, found that I did need to work on my footy, and over the last two years I've really worked hard and spent a lot of time into my footy."
"I'm only 20, I've still got a bit of work to do and a lot of things to develop on in my footy ... this year I have been working on my defensive craft, just my one-on-one footy and what not," he said.
Saturday's final was only Heppell's fifth VFL game of the season, after playing nine matches in his debut season last year. There has been renewed competition for spots given the mature age bodies of Jordan Schroder, James Polkinghorne and Daniel Coghlan, who has starred in the Bombers midfield.
Coghlan, who has averaged 20 touches four marks and almost four tackles a game, is considered to be a ready-made AFL recruit for now; Heppell, considered a late bloomer, is still at least another year away, according to recruiters.
"That [being drafted] would be unreal," Heppell said. "I've still got a long way to go from here. I've only played the five games of VFL this year so I'm keeping a pretty level head at this stage, but it's definitely the dream."
"They [Essendon's recruiting staff] have been really honest with me over the last couple of years," he said.
Skipworth maintains Heppell's competitiveness - in which his closing speed and desperation were key features at North Port Oval on Saturday - is an advantage.
"He's certainly got the competitiveness, he's still working on his skills and his kicking and stuff but his competitiveness is certainly at an AFL level," Skipworth said.
"He just needs to keep working on his skills and refining them over the next year or two."
Heppell, who works part-time at the Windy Hill Social Club "pouring beers behind the bar", also plays with Leongatha in Gippsland League under coach Beau Vernon, who suffered a severe spinal injury during a match against Wonthaggi in June 2012.
With Leongatha also in the mix for a flag and the league's grand final scheduled on the same weekend as the VFL grand final, Heppell said he may face a dilemma if both teams are to make it through to the last dance.
"Unfortunately I wouldn't be able to sneak in both but I'd be stoked to play in either," he said.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/heppell-the-younger-eyes-chance-to-make-bombers-20150912-gjl523.html#ixzz3lZWtClkQ