Bendigo will host a soccer bonanza featuring some of the state’s best young players this weekend.
More than 750 elite juniors will flock to Epsom-Huntly Recreation Reserve for a Victorian Champions League two-day regional gala.
Players from the Loddon Mallee Lightning, comprising juniors from the Bendigo, Echuca, Swan Hill and Mildura regions, will be among those vying to impress state selectors in the second-last round of the season.
“They are what’s called the best of the best, this is where next year’s state teams are selected from, they don’t have state trials any more,” Lightning head coach Dave Coward said yesterday.
“It’s a big comp, each zone has seven teams and an average of 16 players in each squad.”
The event is being hosted by Football Federation Victoria in conjunction with the City of Greater Bendigo.
“Bendigo holds more major FFV events than any other regional centre and the facilities at Epsom are first-class,” FFV interim chief executive officer Peter Gome said.
“I encourage everyone in the area with an interest in football to see the talent on display in the VCL for themselves and get glimpse of the potential Socceroos and Matildas of the future.”
As well as Loddon Mallee, teams from Greater Geelong Galaxy, South East Cougars, North East Diamonds, Southern Cross striker and Central City will be in action.
Each team will play a match on both days of the event, which begins on Saturday.
Loddon Mallee’s under-15 and under-17 girls’ teams are third in their respective leagues and still in title contention with a game in hand after last week’s round in Swan Hill was called off because of the heat.
The under-14 boys’ team will also be aiming to consolidate its position in the top five and push the league leaders this weekend.
“We’re going reasonably well, obviously competing against Melbourne zones is not easy,” Coward said.
“It’s a development program, whilst it’s a competition – there’s ladders, leading goal-scorers – but there’s no actual finals.”
Age groups are under-13s to under-17s.