Essendon Bombers Training Session
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 25: Dyson Heppell during an Essendon Bombers AFL training session at Metricon Stadium on August 25, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

2020 was a tough year for Essendon both on and off the field.

Plenty of scrutiny has been directed at the club and culture, which resulted in a poor season overall and several key players departing during the trade and free agency period.

Joe Daniher signed with Brisbane as a free agent, while Adam Saad and Orazio Fantasia moved for greener pastures to Carlton and Port Adelaide respectively.

Despite the consistent backlash around the culture at the Bombers, captain Dyson Heppell has hit back, saying the club has worked hard over the pre-season to build the relationships that will see the club have success.

“You hear things like that (about culture) and I couldn’t disagree more with some of the statements that were getting thrown out (in the 2020 trade period),” Heppell told reporters.

“Obviously everyone’s trying to build a really strong culture and it’s something that we are certainly working towards.

“At the moment, that’s a great focus of ours over this pre-season, really trying to build our relationships right across the club and I think that will stack up really well.”

Heppell himself is on the road back from ankle surgery and racing the clock to be fit for Round 1.

The midfielder was yesterday announced as skipper for a fourth-straight year, with Zach Merrett returning to the leadership group also made up of Andrew McGrath and Michael Hurley.

The Bombers open their 2021 campaign against Hawthorn on Saturday March 20.