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Aussie Rules: Lions and Bombers legends step aside

The 2023 AFL season is fast approaching and it has been a big week as far as leadership groups go with some big changes being made.

Leadership groups are of course a big deal in the AFL and clubs spend a lot of time during the off-season in the hope of getting it right.

It could be the difference between success and failure. No longer is it a case of there being just one captain out on the pitch. These days clubs can go with co-captains and then have a larger leadership group usually consisting of four or five players in total.

There have been some big changes since the end of the season with the likes of Nat Fyfe stepping down as Fremantle captain, while Geelong skipper Joel Selwood has of course retired. Over the last week there have been more shake-ups at a number of clubs so let’s take a closer look at them.

Zorko steps aside at Brisbane

There is big news to come out of the Brisbane Lions camp after Dayne Zorko revealed he is stepping down as captain. Zorko had been captain of the Lions for four seasons after replacing Dayne Beams, and he missed just five games during that time.

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It has been a remarkable run, but now at the age of 34, Zorko has revealed he will step aside and will not take part in the leadership voting process. He says being skipper has been a ‘privilege and a pleasure’ but now it is time for a new chapter for the Lions.

Lachie Neale, Harris Andrews and Hugh McCluggage are now among the contenders to replace Zorko and an announcement is expected to be made within the next couple of weeks. The Lions are priced at 7/1 to win the Grand Final in 2023.

Bombers to unveil new skipper

Essendon are looking to appoint a new captain for the first time since 2017 following Dyson Heppell’s decision to step aside.

The Bombers have a new coach in the form of Brad Scott for the 2023 season and now they will also have a new captain and leadership group.

Star mifdfielder Zach Merrett, who was vice-captain last season, looks set to step into the role, while Andrew McGrath is also another option. Essendon are expected to announce their captain before the clash against the Gold Coast next Thursday and it will be a surprise if Merrett does not get the nod after impressing Scott in pre-season.

Scott wanted Heppell to carry on but respects the player’s decision to step down and focus more on his footy. Essendon are priced at 7/2 to make the top eight this season.

Hawks go with Sicily

Hawthorn have confirmed that James Sicily will skipper the side in 2023, replacing Ben McEvoy who retired at the end of last season. It caps a remarkable comeback for the 28-year-old who was out of the game for 18 months after undergoing a knee reconstruction.

He returned to action in 2022 and caught the eye with some dazzling performances before putting pen-to-paper on a new five-year deal. Sicily says it is ‘an enormous responsibility but I'm ready for the challenge’.

Luke Breust and Dylan Moore will offer support as vice-captains, while Sam Frost, Jarman Impey and Mitch Lewis will form part of a wider leadership group. The Hawks are still in a rebuild and are priced at 14/1 to make finals under the leadership of coach Sam Mitchell in 2023.

Same again for Tigers

Richmond Tigers are planning a return to the top and are backing co-captains Dylan Grimes and Toby Nankervis to help take them there.

They became the first co-captains of the club in 2022, replacing Trent Cotchin, and the Tigers went on to return to finals before losing the elimination final against Brisbane. Even som Richmond football performance manager Tim Livingstone says the duo did an outstanding job leading the group and will stay in the role for 2023.

Both Grimes and Nankervis were endorsed by their team-mates and the football department, and now it is full steam ahead for the new season. The Tigers are priced at 8/1 to win the Grand Final.

Bontempelli remains top Dog

The Western Bulldogs are priced at 15/1 to win the 2023 AFL Grand Final and they will once again be skippered by Marcus Bontempelli in the season ahead. Indeed the Bulldogs will stick with their entire five-man leadership group from last year. 

That means Jack Macrae will remain as vice-captain and Aaron Naughton, Caleb Daniel and Taylor Duryea will make up the quintet.

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