While it’s the fifth consecutive year the group has made it to finals, it will be Heppell’s first time going in as skipper, and he couldn’t be more excited.
“I’ve played in nine finals with the club, but obviously this will be my first time leading it so I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
“Everyone’s up and about around the club, and there’s a lot who haven’t played VFL finals before so they’re really looking forward to the experience.”
Heppell featured in last year’s preliminary-final exit, when the VFL Dons fell just eight points short of securing a Grand Final berth.
He was named among the best on ground, even slotting a second-quarter goal to give Essendon a narrow lead, and credits that match for how the group went about this season.
“Playing in last year’s prelim has had a big impact on this season. Throughout the year, you’re always striving towards finals, so we want to build that same energy and feeling down at Punt Road this weekend.
“We had a massive crowd down at North Port Oval (last September) with a lot of Essendon fans, so to think it could be like that again on Saturday is very exciting.”
Essendon VFL coach Dan Jordan joins fellow VFL finals coaches at this week’s finals launch. (Photo: AFL Photos)
Essendon has already faced Richmond twice this season, having lost by a combined total of 15 points.
Heppell is hoping for a third time lucky on Saturday.
“We’ve been able to see what (Richmond) has, and (Richmond) has been able to see what we have, so I guess there’s no secrets going into this game,” he said.
“Finals is a different game of footy, but we’ll just come with our best outfit and our game-plan, and see if we can execute it on the day.”
Saturday’s qualifying final will be held at the Swinburne Centre (Punt Road Oval) from 2:10pm.
While the match will also be televised on Channel 7, Heppell hopes to see as many fans there as possible.
“The support from the fans this year has been great. Last year’s final series felt like it was all Essendon supporters in the crowd and I’d like to see that again.
“We can really hear the crowd out there, and it’s a great feeling to have that support.”
More information and tickets can be found at vfl.com.au/finals .