BENDIGO'S youth girls football competition kicks off in May, but the hard work is already well under way for many of its most talented players.
Ashlea Hampton from Strathfieldsaye, Kangaroo Flat's Ashlee McLeod, Kyneton team-mates Ainslie Kemp and Alicia Rooth and Castlemaine girls Marla Neal, Katie Tong and Choney Meemusour are training with AFL Victoria's North Ballarat Youth Girls Academy.
Huntly star Isabella Ayre is working alongside the Bendigo Pioneers under-16 boys.
Several are trialling for a position in Victoria's country team for the national championships.
A squad has also been training solidly in preparation for the Subway Shield inter-league challenge, which features the state's best under-18 female players.
The Bendigo representative team plays two practice matches in coming weeks - against Goulburn Valley on March 23 and Ballarat on March 30.
They will be coached by decorated Bendigo Thunder premiership player Alana Wearne, who was her side's leading goal kicker last year and brings great knowledge to the team.
I will be her assistant for the carnival.
During the Subway Shield in April, Bendigo will come up against tough opposition from the Goulburn Valley, Ballarat, Geelong, Hampden and Gippsland youth girls leagues.
At a local level, many clubs have already had their registration days and started pre-season training.
The Bendigo Junior Football League youth girls competition starts on Sunday, May 11, and should prove to be a ripper season!
Two new teams have been added this year to take the league numbers from six to eight teams.
It will be exciting to watch Kangaroo Flat and Maryborough in their debut season.
They will be up against Huntly, North Bendigo and Eaglehawk, as well as second-year sides Strathfieldsaye, Kyneton and reigning premiers Castlemaine.
Some clubs are still looking for extra players, so if you are aged between 13 and 18 and interested in pulling on some footy boots, contact Tony McNamara at AFL Victoria Country on 0419 103 178 to find your nearest team.
In the senior ranks, two-time premiership team Bendigo Thunder plays its first game in the Victorian Women's Football League premier division on May 4.
The Thunder girls have been training since February and are very eager to take on the clubs in their new division.
The Bendigo youth girls Subway Shield interim squad is: Ainslie Kemp, Chelsea Reeves, Ruby Campbell, Carnie Edlin, Katrina Whittle, Molly Metcalf, Georgia Coverdale, Grace Andrea, Jaime Sawers, Marla Neal, Grace Edlin, Katie Tong, Aisling Tupper, Alicia Rooth, Briana Eyles, Charlotte Edlin, Ashlee McLeod, Ashlea Hampton, Tiahna Cochrane, Isabella Ayre, Chonlathorn Meemusour, Ashlee Knight, Alana Long, Jasmine Simmonds and Chamika Sadler.
Grace Campbell is the AFL Victoria-Bendigo Advertiser Female Football Ambassador for this region. Schools interested in Grace hosting a girls' football clinic should contact Tony McNamara on 0419 103 178.