By Trevor Jackson
SCHOOLS in the Limestone Coast will enjoy a treat on Friday when the Port Adelaide Football Club holds virtual visits in the region.
Generally community camps are held in person but with COVID-19 still a real threat, restrictions remain in place.
To circumvent those restrictions the virtual COVID-safe community camps will be held in the region for the first time, with 16 schools involved.
PAFC community general manager Jake Battifuoco said while the camps looked a little different this year, the club and players were keen to kick them off.
“While this year it is a little bit different, it still allows us to connect with the regional community,” he said.
“We have booked in with 16 schools across the Limestone Coast and will also give some Auskickers, key volunteers and footy coaches in the region a call.
“Off the back of the challenges and uncertainty everyone faced last year, it gives us an opportunity to get everyone excited for the year ahead, get everyone thinking about footy being back this year and get a bit of a buzz going about it.
“For a lot of people involved, especially at that community level, it would have been a tough time last year.”
The players involved would certainly prefer to be in the community physically, but Battifuoco said they were also keen for the new format.
“We piloted this a bit last year,” he said.
“When the community camps we run were ceased in a face-to-face capacity because of COVID, we incorporated virtual visits with the players, so they have had a taste of it.
“What that meant was it still allowed us the opportunity to connect with the community.
“The players involved in this camp have had experience in this virtual space but I think a lot of them prefer to be face to face.”
Club captain Tom Jonas echoed those sentiments.
“We’re excited to get amongst the South East community despite not being able to be there physically,” he said.
“It is a beautiful part of the world where we have a large supporter base.”
Schools involved range from Keith, Bordertown and Naracoorte, right down through Robe and various schools in the Mount Gambier area.