It was a busy few days for Essendon Football Club when it held a camp in Benalla and ran a clinic for school children and also made various public appearances.DAMEN FRANCIS February 6, 2014 4:10am
Essendon thrilled AFL fans in north east Victoria with a community camp in Benalla this week.
The Bombers arrived on Tuesday and made various public appearances, including visits to local primary schools, before lending their expertise to local football clubs, including Goulburn Valley Football League club Benalla.
An official function was held at the Lakeside Community Centre on Tuesday night and the camp finished with an open training session at Friendlies Oval and a superclinic at Benalla Showgrounds yesterday.
Almost the entire senior squad made the trip, with only the likes of injured pair Paul Chapman and Dyson Heppell left at home.
Club captain Jobe Watson, veteran Dustin Fletcher and the coaching staff returned to Essendon prior to yesterday’s superclinic.
An estimated 300-plus children got the opportunity to meet and learn skills from some of their favourite players, such as Brendon Goddard and Patrick Ryder.
One young player looking to make his mark this season is Jason Ashby.
The hard running defender joined the Bombers from TAC Cup side Oakleigh Chargers in the 2012 national draft and has set his sight on making his senior debut in the coming months.
‘‘Bomber (coach Mark Thompson) likes the young boys to be put straight in the deep end, so we’re training with the main group the whole time and learning from the elder more experienced players such as Goddard, Watson, Chapman and Fletcher and they’ve all been great,’’ Ashby said.
Ashby grew up in Balwyn North and enjoyed the change of scenery.
‘‘It’s certainly different getting out to the country, it’s really relaxing and a total change up from Melbourne, getting away from all the rush and business with our training schedule,’’ he said.
‘‘The people have been extremely welcoming and everyone has been up for a chat.
‘‘(Benalla) is a great place to train, the oval’s in great nick and I found it really relaxing training out here with all the boys.
‘‘It’s the first time our development group has been away from our new Tullamarine training facility this year, so just training somewhere else has been really refreshing and maybe it will give us an advantage coming into the NAB Cup.’’
Ashby said the community camp was about taking the game to rural areas and connecting with the Bombers faithful, young and old.
‘‘We had the community dinner (on Tuesday) night at the function room, which was really nice, just getting involved with local fans of the Bombers and convincing them to get down to Melbourne a bit more and watch a few home games,’’ he said.
‘‘We had an open training session which was great to see the locals come out and get a few autographs and it was really good seeing Jobe taking that. They learned a lot from it and looked like they all had a fun time.’’
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Emergency services are on scene of a two-car crash on the Midland Hwy, near Benalla. Two people have died. Traffic is being diverted.
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