AFL Rd 4 - Essendon v Carlton
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 27: Dylan Shiel of the Bombers (L) and Devon Smith of the Bombers look dejected after the round 4 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Carlton Blues at Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 27, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Essendon announced its 2021 leadership group last week - with Dyson Heppell set to captain the club for a fifth-straight season.

In what will be Ben Rutten's first official season as coach amid several list changes, Zach Merrett returned to the leadership group following his surprise omission last year, with Andrew McGrath and Michael Hurley rounding out the four-piece.

Dylan Shiel and Devon Smith were dropped from last year's crop after just 12 months in the role, which has raised concerns from club great Tim Watson.

Speaking on SEN BreakfastWatson questioned what the constant tweaking of the leadership group said about the club.

“It’s looking a bit like (a hokey-pokey) leadership group,” the 307-gamer said on Wednesday morning.

“It’s a bit curious how that judgement can be made about someone (Like Zach Merrett) that they’re in the leadership group, they’re out of the leadership group and then they’re back in during a period of three years.

“I think more interesting for me that Dylan Shiel and Devon Smith have been in for just the one year (and now no longer there), that says something doesn’t it.

“They were considered by the group at that time that they were leaders, they were in there for 12 months – and it was a difficult 12 months for everyone given we went through COVID and the hub – (and then then were out again).

“You have input form the players and the staff, then they invite different input. It paints the picture from the outside that there’s some misunderstanding and disconnection around that type of players that needs to be corrected if that is going to push forward and be a successful team.”

Arguably the most interesting aspect is the club recalling Merrett - who is set to enter restricted free agency at the end of the season.

He averaged 26.2 disposals, 3.4 tackles, 3.6 clearances and 4.9 inside 50s from 16 games in 2020.

Fellow SEN host and ex-Demons skipper Garry Lyon 'admired' the Bombers for reinstating Merrett into the leadership group and admitting to their fault.

“I admire them for putting him back in because it says to me that they know they (made a mistake),” he said.

Essendon open their 2020 campaign against Hawthorn on Saturday March 2020 at Marvel Stadium.