ONCE the regional heartland for Carlton, Bendigo turned blue once again yesterday for day one of the AFL club’s community camp.
The Blues arrived in Bendigo at 11.30am yesterday for a civic reception, where they were welcomed by mayor Lisa Ruffell.
Andrew Carrazzo told the crowd the Blues relished the opportunity to spend two days in a city where the club has such a rich history, with Bendigo being Carlton’s former recruiting zone.
“All the boys are looking forward to giving back to the community, having some fun with the young kids and the adults tonight (at the Dinner with the Stars),” Carrazzo said.
However, there was one notable absence at the civic reception – Blues superstar Chris Judd – said to be “not feeling well”.
Judd was to have been one of the special guests at today’s Business and Administrators Lunch at the All Seasons Quality Resort, as well as take part in a kick-to-kick this morning with competition winner Jacob Boyd.
Jacob, 11, will still get the chance to have kick-to-kick with Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs, and will be invited by the Blues to meet Judd later in the year.
While Jacob will meet Murphy this morning, Raywood Primary School students had the chance to meet the star midfielder yesterday during his visit to the school with Jeff Garlett.
“The kids were all happy to see us, have a bit of a kick and ask some questions about what it’s like to play AFL,” Murphy said.
“I’m sure it’s a good little experience for them, but Jeff and I get a bit out of it too, speaking to kids who aren’t used to seeing footballers all the time.”
For Gibbs, this is his first time in Bendigo.
“There’s a rich history here with many of the great past players from Carlton being from here,” he said.
“Country people are so giving and welcoming, so it’s always nice to come up and meet some new people.”
While Gibbs is enjoying Bendigo for the first time, team-mate Andrew Walker knows the city well, having spent two years playing with the Bendigo Pioneers before he was drafted by Carlton with pick No.2 in 2003.
“I haven’t been back for a while, but it’s really good to give something back to a town that has thrown so much support behind me and given me the opportunities I’ve had,” Walker said.
“I had a couple of enjoyable years with the Bendigo Pioneers and have some great memories from the QEO, so I’m looking forward to the next couple of days.”