Essendon premiership player Adam Ramanauskas says the James Hird Academy’s annual guard of honour game is always a “very special” occasion.
Ramanauskas, who played a key role in the Bombers’ success in 2000, praised the club for the meaningful connection it has with its past players when he spoke before Essendon’s clash with Port Adelaide on Saturday.
“It’s very special and very important. The club does a great job in involving the past players and living one of its values, which is the heritage of the football club,” Ramanauskas said.
“Seeing some old teammates and their kids growing up, and walking out with the boys is something very special and they look forward to it every year.”
Ramanauskas has three sons in the JHA and he said their interest in the Bombers continues to grow as he maintains his passion for the red and black.
“I try to get to four or five games a year and then through work (commentary) as well, it’s probably another four or five, so I do see enough of them live.
“But I’m always watching on TV and the kids have taken a real interest in it now. My middle one Lucas is playing at Strathmore at the moment and he just finished his first season, so he’s loving that.
“I’ll always take an interest in the club, it’s hard not to.”
The kids at the James Hird Academy are in good hands. pic.twitter.com/pzttOjMQ96— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) July 25, 2019
Ramanauskas’ premiership teammate Dustin Fletcher has assisted with coaching in the academies this year under head coach and fellow former Bomber Heath Hocking and he lauded the pair for their work in contributing to the next crop of Essendon stars.
“I think that’s one of the most important parts of it, because ‘Buddha’ (Hocking) and ‘Fletch’ have absolutely lived Essendon’s values for all of their life.
“And now they are passing those on to the next generation, hopefully with some father-son players, I think it’s so important and the club made great choices there.”
Fletcher is carried off the field by Ramanauskas (left) after breaking the father-son VFL/AFL games record. (Image: AFL Photos)
Fletcher has enjoyed joining the coaching ranks in the program and said there is plenty of exciting talent coming through the system.
“I’ve enjoyed it. Heath heads up the program and does a great job,” Fletcher said at Marvel Stadium.
“I’ve been in there on a Monday and also during this week, so it’s been really good and it’s good to see all of the kids about.
“Some are pretty young, but the older boys that we’ve got in the program do a really good job.”