Essendon are certainly flying this year with a bunch of new rising stars, but it is what they are doing off the field which is really something special.
The Round 15 match between the mighty Bombers and the top-of-the-table Dees marked the fifth consecutive Tackling Childhood Cancer game in support of Challenge families.
A couple of weeks ago, the game was uncertain. Having only just emerged from a Victorian lockdown, we feared the annual match may need to go ahead virtually like last year. But luck was on our side in 2021 and 15 Challenge troopers were treated to an experience like no other!
Prior to the match, we were given the thumbs up to grace our feet on the hallowed turf of the MCG to meet some of the Bombers superstars as they warmed up and practised their set shots on goal. Dyson Heppell led the way as a captain does, introducing his teammates to each and every Challenge kid. From Jake Stringer to Harrison Jones, the Challenge kids had the chance to meet their idols personally and their smiles said it all.
After the pre-game warm up, we then lined up to form the special Guard of Honour to cheer on the Bombers as they ran out onto the ground. Fireworks (literally – fireworks!) went off and we clapped our boys onto the field, before returning to our seats to watch the game.
Three Challenge members also had particularly special experiences. Hannah had the job of giving the official AFL football to the umpires; Gus was Essendon’s official mascot for the run out; and Harrison tossed the coin before the first bounce.
The Bombers just missed out on the chocolates, but they are still winners in our eyes. A big thank you to everyone at the Essendon Football Club – players and staff – for their endless support. It really means the world to our members and it is an experience for which we are so grateful.
A big shout out to a few individuals – Mick from Spike for the incredible artwork; Gina for her incredible photography; QMS for the billboards around Melbourne; and Yakult for their extraordinary donation to Challenge at the President’s Dinner. We are humbled by your enormous generosity.