Essendon has wrapped up its 2020 AFL community camp in Bendigo.
Spending two days in the regional town and the greater Bendigo area, the Bombers interacted with the local community while bonding away from the club.
The first day of the camp saw the team complete a gruelling three-hour training session at a pristine Queen Elizabeth Oval.
While Thursday’s main training session proved to be gut-busting, the players were buoyed by the presence of Bombers super fan Oakley West.
Oakley, nine, is a Bendigo local who recently survived a shocking car crash in the area, which resulted in the devastating death of his mum Jess and younger brother Deighton (five).
Oakley and his dad Anthony, who also survived the crash, were special guests at the Bombers’ open training session.
Oakley was introduced to the players, becoming an honorary trainer for the day and receiving a pair of football boots from his favourite player Jake Stringer.
Stringer said it was a privilege to provide happiness to Oakley in a time of great sadness.
“To have him down here today and make a little special memory for him was great,” Stringer said.
“Hopefully we’ve given him a little gift that he can hold on to forever.”
Hundreds of Bombers fans in Bendigo turned out to watch the open session and grab their favourite players’ signatures and photos.
Afterwards, the Bombers landed at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve to facilitate an AFL Central Victoria coaching clinic, where some of the area’s brightest juniors showcased their talents.
The afternoon looked a little different, but just as wholesome for Adam Saad, Kyle Langford, Sam Draper and Michael Hurley, who spent time working in the Islamic and Karan Community’s soup kitchen.
Friday morning saw the players enjoy a well-earned recovery at Kangaroo Flat, before taking their services to the wider community.
Two Bendigo banks, Champions IGA, Bendigo Community Health and Fosterville Gold Mine all received special visits, as players mingled with locals and visitors alike.
The final afternoon of the camp proved to be a special one, with players visiting the Bendigo Health Hospital, five local schools and Japara Mirridong Aged Care Home.
Midfielder Darcy Parish said it was special for the team to visit Bendigo.
“It’s been great to come up to Bendigo,” Parish said.
“Being from the country, it’s great to have some idols and role models come to the country and it makes people’s day.
“It’s always good to come back to the country and get to some areas outside of Melbourne.”
The Bombers will enjoy a three-day break before returning to The Hangar, where there’ll ramp up their preparations for their Marsh Community Series Opener against West Coast at Mineral Resources Park on February 27.