The Bendigo Bank Pioneers’ squad for the 2013 TAC Cup season will be cut to the final 40 players this weekend.
The Pioneers’ under-18s will play an intra-club match at its home ground at Epsom-Huntly Recreation Reserve on Sunday in the final chance to impress the coaching staff.
The Pioneers’ under-16s play an intra-club game from 11am, followed by the six-quarter under-18s game from 1pm.
“That will be the last game before we finalise our list, we’ve got about 60, we’ll probably go to 40,” Pioneers regional manager Ray Byrne said.
The Pioneers are building towards their second season under head coach David Newett, with a bumper clash against North Ballarat Rebels at Epsom to kick-off the season on March 30.
The club will choose its leadership group at a camp in Swan Hill next weekend, before a practice match against the Calder Cannons at Epsom for the 16s and 18s on Sunday, February 17.
That will be the Pios’ only practice match against TAC Cup opposition in Bendigo this pre-season, with another intra-club game the following Sunday also at Epsom.
“We’d like to get as many people as we can to come down to watch our practice matches in Bendigo,” Byrne said.
Bendigo will play two pre-season away games against the Rebels at Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium on March 3 and in Shepparton against Murray Bushrangers on March 17.
“We’re looking alright, the boys who were in last year learnt so much off David and they’ve trained really well,” Byrne said. “We’re good in most areas.”
The Pioneers will be hoping for big seasons from 19-year-old players Liam Byrne, Sam Heavyside and Harry O’Meara this year, while last season’s best-and-fairest Jacob Chisari and runner-up Isaiah Miller will both be back in action.
A number of last season’s Pioneers have made the step to VFL with the Bendigo Gold this season – including Che Walls, Ben Archard and Galen Munari.
“There’s always been a lot of kids on the Bombers, or Diggers, or Gold’s list, probably this year a third of them are ex-Pioneers,” Byrne said.
The Pioneers will hold its jumper presentation for both teams the weekend before round one, Saturday March 23.
Meanwhile, the Pioneers were pleased to announce the continuation of the Bendigo Bank’s naming rights sponsorship for this season.
“They’ve been with us many years now, they’ve just been great supporters,” Byrne said.
“The money they put in helps a lot, we can afford a lot of things we wouldn’t be able to if we didn’t have their sponsorship.”