Mallacoota resident and passionate Essendon member Grant Cockburn has been treated to a special day during the club’s team photo day at The Hangar on Tuesday.
Mallacoota was one of the epicentres of the devastating fires that ravaged the East Gippsland region of eastern Victoria over the new year period.
Inspired by the community’s stories, the Bombers invited all local club members to take part in the team photos this week.
Essendon captain Dyson Heppell, who hails from Gippsland, raised more than $300,000 for the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund and Wildlife Victoria when he shaved his trademark dreadlocks in January, and Cockburn was thrilled to have the support of the club and its players.
“It’s awesome, it really is. It’s a great place here and it’s good to meet a couple of the boys,” Cockburn said on Tuesday.
“I said thanks (to Heppell) when I was up there, because it really means a lot to everybody. A lot of money has been raised and the generosity has been amazing.
“Personally, we didn’t lose any property – we did a lot of preparation and luckily we didn’t lose anything – but many have up there and it’s a tough struggle for them to keep going. Anything that can help move you forward is the way to go.”
More than 100 homes in Mallacoota are estimated to have been destroyed by the powerful fires, but Cockburn said the strong and proud community will bounce back.
“We’re a pretty resilient little community up there and there are lots of really talented emergency services within our group up there.
“With the townsfolk there are lots of hugs going on in the main street and everyone is doing what they can. Everyone has got their own way of working their way through it.
“You drive around and it’s pretty horrible seeing your mate’s house lying on the ground, but there is support there to get things up and running again.
“As time goes on, people will get their act together again and move forward.”
Club head of membership Carla Marturano said the Bombers were proud to provide Cockburn, alongside a pair of other committed members, with the unique opportunity to take part in the team photos at The Hangar.
“Team photo day presents us with an opportunity to reward long-term members and those experiencing tough times,” Marturano said.
“We decided to extend to an invitation to our members from Mallacoota who have been impacted by the recent bushfires in the hope that it would be a positive and uplifting experience for them, in what has been a difficult few months.”
“Along with Grant, long-term members Sharon Amos and Jason Harding also came along to the team photo day after winning the opportunity through our Member Recognition Prize Draw, which rewards our 20-plus-year members.”