Day 2: Thursday, February 12
Breakfast is held from the dining room of the RACV Resort, which includes a cracking view of the Bass Coast.
Soon the day is under way, with the players checking out before heading to a super clinic at the Inverloch Kongwak Football Club, where Melbourne great Brett Lovett was recruited from.
Chris Dawes, Jack Viney, Angus Brayshaw, Christian Petracca and Christian Salem are just some of the players at the super clinic, which has 350 kids in attendance.
It’s another great sight watching the kids relish the opportunity to be among the players. They certainly love the tackling bags! Or at least the ones I saw that Brayshaw and Viney were looking after.
Meanwhile, the likes of Grimes, Cross and McKenzie attend a leadership forum for women at Wonthaggi Secondary School. Others such as Nathan Jones, Jack Watts and Col Garland conduct a leadership forum at Leongatha Secondary College.
And Jeremy Howe, Mark Jamar and Neville Jetta are among the players to visit an aged care facility in Leongatha.
Cross reflects on the camp so far and says it’s been a positive experience.
“I’ve been out to a few schools and out to a couple of footy clubs for junior clinics,” he says.
“It’s always good to get out to the country communities.
“They (communities) really make the most of it, when sides get out and share their time with them and the kids are always enthusiastic – that’s what you want when you get amongst it.”
The players arrive at the Leongatha Cricket Club for an early lunch before another super clinic is held at the ground.
The boys enjoy a hit of tennis ball cricket before the kids arrive. Not surprisingly there are several with impressive techniques.
Christian Petracca’s late cut was impressive; Jack Watts’ running catch was a beauty and James Harmes’ leaps in the field were Steve Smith-like!
The likes of Rohan Bail, Mark Jamar, Nathan Jones, Jack Grimes, Jack Watts, Dean Kent, Heritier Lumumba, Ben Newton, Cam Pedersen and Christian Salem are involved in the clinic. About 250 grade one and two students participate.
Jamar says one of the most enjoyable aspects of returning to Gippsland is seeing some familiar faces.
“It’s been good. It’s been great to come back to the same area for about three years in a row,” he says.
“We’ve seen a lot of familiar faces and a lot of kids growing up and been tracking their progress, so the community really gets a lot out of it.
“The players also get a lot out of it and I think the club really enjoys coming to this area.”
The long-serving ruckman says the players get a kick out of “giving back to the community”.
“We’ve been to a few local footy clubs for lunch and dinner and we’ve done a few talks. We’ve been to some aged care homes and said g’day to a few of the folk,” he says.
“It’s part of our requirement as an AFL footballer, but to come back to the same region time and time again, you build that relationship with the locals and you see the kids progress and develop each time we return.
“I get most of my enjoyment out of that – seeing the kids develop and you get to teach them a fair bit of stuff at the clinics and help them learn how to read. [It’s also good to visit] the aged care homes, which is a humbling experience.”
Meanwhile, another group consisting of Jesse Hogan, Jeremy Howe, Max Gawn, Tom McDonald, Chris Dawes, Daniel Cross, Matt Jones, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Max Gawn and Jake Spencer attends the super clinic at Korumburra Recreation Reserve. There is another 250 kids involved in the activities.
A leadership presentation is held at the Leongatha Primary School featuring the captain and vice-captain: Jones and Dunn.
After the presentation, the camp concludes with the players departing back for Melbourne.
Community manager Debbie Lee says this year’s community camp has been “very successful”.
“Our players connected with the community in a number of ways, including visiting primary schools, secondary schools, junior football clubs, hospitals and aged care facilities, so we got a really great snapshot of the community.
“The communities all really appreciated it too, which was a great result. A lot of towns really get behind it when they hear Melbourne is coming down to visit and they’re really appreciative. There were a number of community members who came up to me who were really thankful.
“I think it’s really important we give back to footy and grass roots, because the foundation of footy is built on community. I think it’s great we’re in a position to give back.”