THE sleeping giant of Bendigo sport has awoken.
Soccer, or football if you prefer, in Bendigo has just been chugging along at the same pace for as long as I can remember.
The Bendigo Amateur Soccer League has its following, but the game needed to go to another level.
The announcement on Friday that Bendigo has been granted a National Premier Leagues Victoria licence is just the shot in the arm the sport needs.
At long last, Bendigo will compete in an elite competition in senior and junior divisions.
While the senior side is likely to struggle early on against Victorian soccer's power clubs, this concept is a major bonus for juniors.
The environment the new club will provide should do wonders for the next generation of Bendigo's soccer players.
The number of kids playing the game has always been strong, but once those children reached 11 or 12 the sport has lost a good percentage of those players to other sports, particularly Aussie Rules.
The pathway for talented young Aussie Rules players has always been far more defined than soccer.
The introduction of the NPLV gives our talented junior soccer stars the opportunity to play against Victoria's best juniors without having to go to Melbourne to train three times a week.
The follow-on effect of juniors receiving elite coaching can only benefit players when they return to their BASL clubs.
The NPLV club will also give soccer in Bendigo an opportunity to showcase the sport.
Non-BASL followers are probably not inclined to spend a Sunday afternoon watching Colts United clash with Golden City.
But a Saturday night game under lights at the Tom Flood Sports Centre between Bendigo and the Melbourne Knights could be a different story.
There'd be countless sports fans in Bendigo who regularly watch EPL or A-League games on the TV, but they have no interest in the BASL.
This elite competition might be enough to attract a new wave of supporters for the sport in Bendigo.
With the World Cup in Brazil only months away as well, Bendigo soccer has a golden opportunity to score goals in 2014.
National Premier Leagues club a coup for Bendigo
This concept is a major bonus for junior soccer