NOT everyone at Bendigo Health on Monday was a Richmond fan.
But the Tigers certainly won over plenty of new ones – even if it was only for one day.
In Bendigo for their two-day AFL Community Camp, a group of Tigers - headed by premiership stars Dustin Martin and Nick Vlastuin – mingled with patients and staff for more than an hour and did their bit to spread some cheer to the sick.
Judging by the reactions on the faces of those in wards throughout the hospital, including children’s, intensive care, rehabilitation and the cancer centre, it clearly worked.
While the players’ visit was pre-arranged, it was still a surprise to some, including cancer patient Alan Fisher, from Bendigo.
The long-time Essendon supporter was undergoing his ninth of 12 scheduled rounds of chemotherapy for bowel cancer when the Tigers, including defender Jayden Short and the newly drafted Noah Balta, made their entrance and brought a smile to his face.
“I wasn’t expecting this at all. I didn’t know what was going on when I saw them all coming in,” he said.
“I’m an Essendon supporter, but I’d better change for today.
“I watched the grand final and I thought it was a pretty good result – I liked seeing them win.”
Fisher admitted it was pretty unusual circumstances to meet AFL footballers and following the friendliness shown by the Tigers, he would be barracking for an Essendon-Richmond grand final this year.
It was a packed day for the Tigers, who spent time at the region’s schools, and also lent a hand at a joint training session involving players from the club’s newly introduced VFLW side and Bendigo Pioneers TAC Cup Girls and youth girls’ teams.
Richmond assistant coach Ben Rutten said the community camp was an opportunity for players and coaching staff to get out to a region where ties were continually being strengthened with the football club..
“Bendigo is a special area for us, it’s Dustin’s home town and it’s also part of our Next Generation Academy zone, which is an area where we can identify multicultural and particular indigenous talent,” he said.
“We’re going to be getting out to lots of schools and hospitals and aged care facilities, so hopefully we are going to touch as many people as we can.”