Aaron Heppell (Gippsland Power)
Height: 181 cm
Weight: 78 kg
Player Comparison: Heath Shaw
Player Style: Corey Enright
Strengths: Ground contests; Football IQ; Positioning
Weaknesses: Stamina; Overhead contested marking
Gippsland Power have started the 2013 TAC Cup season with a bang and despite losing their past two games, are still sitting nicely in fifth position on the ladder. Gippsland’s great start was due to their players all playing solid team football, but a standout has been the form of halfback flanker and wingman Aaron Heppell.
The AFL was taken by storm a couple of years ago with another Heppell; Aaron’s older brother Dyson drafted in 2010. The flamboyant Essendon defender went on to win the NAB Rising Star in his rookie season. Aaron has a lot to live up to and at the moment, is playing his best footy for Gippsland lining up most weekends not too dissimilar to Dyson, in the back line. He is able to use his ball winning ability very well, which in turn generates much of Gippsland’s rebounding run and carry, linking up with other running players in Tom Muir and Josh Cashman.
One of Heppell’s strengths is his unique ability to win one-on-one contests when the ball is in dispute. In the recent win over the Western Jets, Heppell’s contests at crucial moments were a huge reason why the Power came away with the win. He was able to beat two opponents deep in the Jets defence and find a teammate, which then resulted in a Gippsland goal late in a close game to seal the win.
His ability to read the play and zone off when required is an asset that Heppell shares with Heath Shaw. Heppell constantly collects possessions zoning off opponents like Shaw does. He is a massive generator of run for the Power and his kicking ability also allows him to play this offensive role. This isn’t to say Heppell isn’t accountable, he just chooses the right moments to go and sets up the Power from the half back line.
An area that Heppell can struggle with is his stamina and running out all four quarters of football. He could play a great first half, but then after halftime disappears in the third quarter, then be able to regain that first half flare and finish off strongly. If Heppell could increase his running capacity, he would be an even more damaging player, having the ability to run off his opponents and also for a full four quarters. His endurance currently would mean he could be an ideal candidate for a sub’s vest at AFL until his stamina increases. In saying that, he probably won’t be playing as much as brother Dyson did in his first year as he will also spend considerable time in the gym.
Another potential question mark over Heppell is his overhead contested marking. He’s brave and reads the play brilliantly, but when one-on-one in the air, Heppell tends to be out muscled. This is another reason why Heppell tends to bring the ball to ground in some circumstances in order to create some magic out of nothing. He excels at beating his opponent on the ground through pace and skill.
Although he has some difficulties with overhead marking and stamina, his ability to win the contested ball on the ground and his football IQ when playing a loose man in defense role definitely out weigh his weaknesses. His Corey Enright style of play would appeal to many AFL clubs, with clubs who lack good contested ball winners and dual position players such as Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda. He is touted to go late in the second round or early third round in the 2013 AFL draft.
Aaron’s Gippsland Power will take on the Northern Knights back home in Morwell on Saturday from 1pm. He missed the Power’s loss to the Murray Bushrangers due to an AC knock that he suffered in the loss against Eastern Ranges. The Power would love to have their back flanker and wing man back as he makes their squad a much more dangerous lineup when he is on the field.
TAC Cup 2013 Statistics:
Dream Team Points: 65.67