ZACH Merrett has missed out on a spot in Essendon's leadership group after a player vote elected a new-look five-man group on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old star midfielder has served as the Bombers' vice-captain since 2017 after joining the leadership group in 2016.
The Cobden export also captained the side on five occasions in the absence of injured skipper Dyson Heppell last season.
Heppell returns for a fourth straight year as captain after being unanimously endorsed to continue in his role by the playing group in December.
2017 All Australian Dylan Shiel and 2018 Crichton medallist Devon Smith were elevated into the group.
Michael Hurley and David Zaharakis formally return for season 2020, after first entering the Bombers' leadership group in 2011.
Zaharakis re-joins the leadership group for the first time since 2016 and Hurley has been added after one season out.
General manager of football Dan Richardson said the make up of the leadership group was player driven.
"The entire playing group went through a thorough voting process to determine the formal leaders and it is a really positive sign that the depth of leadership throughout the playing list is growing," he said.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Hurley confirmed Merrett didn't receive enough votes from his peers to remain in the leadership group - rather than consciously stepping down from the role.
He added it shouldn't impact the midfielder's on-field impact this season.
"The criteria's changed slightly, (but) it doesn't take away from Zach as a leader," he said.
"You guys have seen him play. He's the ultimate competitor, he's a great team man and he may not be in the group this year, but I think going forward he's going to be a really strong leader for the club.
"I can't really speak for the other players (but) I know that my votes went in and he polled strongly for me.
"You've seen in the past, guys have come in and out ... but as I said he's a great young leader and a really driven, young individual, so I'm sure we'll see the best of him this year.
"He wants to be one of the top midfielders in the comp, which he's getting closer (to) at the moment."
Merrett won his second Crichton Medal (Essendon's best and fairest) at the end of last season.
In 2019 he claimed career-high season averages for contested possessions, clearances and goal assists, while leading the club for pressure acts and uncontested possessions.
The ball magnet collected 651 disposals last season, which is the third-highest tally in the club's history - placing him behind only himself in first and second place.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.