Essendon’s visit a hit despite the rain

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Wet weather caused disruption to their schedule, but the visit to Ballina this week by the Essendon Bomber AFL club proved popular with locals.

The Bombers were in Ballina on Monday and Tuesday as the first part of their AFL Community Camp to northern NSW and south-east Queensland.

Monday afternoon’s planned open training session at Fripp Oval fell victim to the wet weather, so the Bombers trained inside at Ballina Fair Swim ‘n’ Gym and were later greeted by local children.

Then it was on to the Ramada Hotel, where the Bombers were welcomed by Ballina Shire Mayor Phillip Silver, and local AFL fans turned up for an open public forum.

There was a six-member Bomber panel on hand at the Ramada to answer the many questions locals had on conditioning, coaching and anything else to do with playing AFL.

Senior coach Matthew Knights led the six-man panel, along with assistant coach Gary O’Donnell, manager David Calthorpe, conditioner Joel Hocking and senior players David Hille and Mal Michael.

The audience was a mix of budding teenage players, parents and coaches from the Northern Rivers district, each keen to pick the brains of the AFL’s elite.

On Tuesday the Bombers visited local schools before heading to the Gold Coast.

The Community Camp marked the start of a new era for Essendon, with Matthew Knights filling the big shoes left by long-serving coach, the legendary Kevin Sheedy, who retired last year after a club record 27 years which inlcuded seven grand final appearances, resulting in four premierships.

Knights also gave encouragement for aspiring junior players in the Northern Rivers region — not regarded as an Australian Football stronghold — by saying there was ‘no precise science’ as to where an AFL player came from.

PICTURE: Essendon captain Matthew Lloyd speaks to local sports reporter Darren Moncrieff at the Ramada Hotel in Ballina this week.

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