Sport Dons coach says Heppell doesn't owe club
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Essendon coach Ben Rutten would not begrudge Dyson Heppell leaving the club at the end of the season as speculation swirls around the captain's AFL future.
An unrestricted free agent, Heppell has reportedly been in talks with Gold Coast about a move north to finish his playing days and enter coaching ranks.
The Bombers are keen for Heppell to stay on and have tabled a contract offer for 2023.
On Wednesday, Rutten reiterated Essendon's desire for Heppell to "be here next year as a player for us".
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But a more lucrative deal could lure the 30-year-old away from Tullamarine.
"He's been a great servant for our footy club - he doesn't owe us anything," Rutten told reporters.
"We'll be really supportive of Dyson and all our players, whatever decisions they make.
"But (the speculation) is not something that we'll be spending a lot of time on."
Former Adelaide defender Rutten played his entire 229-game career with the Crows before moving into coaching.
The 39-year-old retired in 2014 and concedes the landscape has shifted under current free agency rules.
"I was a one-club player and I think there's something special about that," Rutten said.
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"Is it the be all and end all? In the environment of AFL footy now plenty of players play for two clubs and that works for different people.
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"There's a romance around playing for one club but I get the landscape we're in."
Heppell is currently in his 12th season with Essendon, and sixth as captain.
The meeting with Port Adelaide at Marvel Stadium on Sunday will be his 212th game for the Bombers.
Fellow veteran Michael Hurley won't play against the Power but remains a live chance to make what could be a farewell appearance against Richmond in round 23.
Hurley has featured in four VFL matches on return from a crippling hip infection, increasing his game time each week.
There has not yet been a decision on the popular 32-year-old's future.
"There's a fair bit to weigh up from our end as well as Hurls's end, which we're talking through all the time," Rutten said.
"The main thing that we're all agreeing on is the future is uncertain with him.
"There's plenty of different options for it and he's aware of that."
Coaching is one option, with Hurley enjoying working with the Bombers' young talls while sidelined.
"He's spent a lot of time with our younger key position players in particular and he's now loving playing with them, and they're loving playing with him," Rutten said.
"I think he's getting a lot of fulfilment and satisfaction out of that at the moment, which is great.
"He's not yet banging on my door about playing AFL but he's enjoying what he's doing and the guys are loving having him out there."
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