By Aaron Cordy
THE Essendon Bombers landed in the region on Monday to the delight of schools and local fans. Across two days they visited every school in Shepparton, Kialla, Mooroopna, Tatura and Kyabram, as well as held a welcome-to-country ceremony at Rumbalara, an Auskick Super clinic and an open training session.
For emerging Bomber’s star and Seymour local, Sam Durham, this will be his second community camp.
“I did Bendigo last year which was pretty cool, I’ve never done that before. So hopefully get up to Shepp and see all the kids. I think it’s cool to give back to all the young kids and all the schoolies, I never really had that growing up in Seymour. I think we had one clinic when North Melbourne come down, but that’s probably the only one that’s ever been to Seymour. So it’s cool to get out to the regional area and give back a bit,” said Sam.
It’s hard to believe Sam Durham wasn’t destined to play AFL after making his debut in 2021 he’s hardly missed a game on his way to 49 matches. But he missed his bottom age year with the Murray Bushrangers, which is the more conventional pathway to the AFL, then had a stint in the VFL before being picked up in the mid-season draft.
“I got cut on the last hurdle getting into the Bushies because I was too small and I didn’t really have a lot of confidence in myself playing footy. My top age year in Bushies I gave it one more shot. I had a couple of people including my boss and a couple of coaches back home to push me along and gave it one more shot in my top age year. And I’m glad they did because I ended up playing a full year in Bushies.”
Still, the dream seemed out of reach when he missed his last year with the Bushrangers when the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. The following season he was invited to train with Richmond’s VFL side. AFL clubs took notice, which led him to the Mid-season draft.
“It happened really quick, two days out from the draft I sort of had two clubs that were really interested, so I thought I was going somewhere… I had a conversation with Essendon and that only lasted 30 minutes, I guess. Straight after that, I rang my manager saying that ‘No they’re not interested, we’ll have to look somewhere else.’ Then on draft night, they called my name. It was pretty surprising.”
Sam and the rest of the Bombers impressed schools and crowds across the two days full of events in the region.