FOR many years players from the Sunraysia region have shone in TAC Cup matches with the Bendigo Pioneers.
On Saturday the Pioneers will play for premiership points in Mildura for the first time in three season.
The Pioneers squad for the round nine clash with NSW-ACT Rams includes South Mildura’s Matthew Chisari, Josh and Lachlan Ryan, Jesse Muscatello, Ryley Barrack; Mildura’s Sam Simmons; Imperials Jayden Fox; Red Cliffs’ Jonty Marciano; and Luke Coates from Walpeup-Underbool.
Marciano and Muscatello are still based in Mildura, but the others are now in Bendigo.
Pioneers clubmates Jacob Chisari, South Mildura; and Red Cliffs team-mates Ethan Ban and Liam McGlashan live and study in Bendigo.
For all it’s been a great challenge on and off the football field in the elite under-18 competition.
Pioneers coach David Newett said to move from family and friends was never going to be easy.
“As a club we are mindful of the commitment they have made, the challenges they face and provide as much support as we can.
“It’s a huge step in the quality of football played each week.”
The Ryan twins are second-year players in the TAC Cup under-18 competition.
Jacob Chisari, a joint winner of the Morrish Medal as league best and fairest in 2013 is now a top-age player at the club.
His younger brother, Matthew played his first TAC Cup match last Saturday against Calder.
It was a day Marciano played TAC Cup for the first time, while Muscatello does so in this Saturday’s contest at Sara Oval, home of South Mildura Football Club.
After being sidelined because of injury, Luke Coates from Walpeup-Underbool is back in the Pioneers team.
McGlashan is injured, while Ban is striving to play his first match for the Pioneers at under-18 level.
It’s an eight-hour round trip on the bus from Bendigo to Mildura.
“This contest is one we are looking forward to,” Newett said.
“It’s been a few years since the Pioneers have played in Mildura, and all the boys from there are keen to play well in a winning team.”
Newett said a key would be to bring or increase the level of intensity and pressure the team played at last round against the second-placed Calder Cannons.
“Defensive efforts against Calder were excellent for a lot of the match.
“The challenge is to play at the same or higher level again in this round.
“Playing a lot of the best players from across New South Wales and the ACT is a massive test.
This year’s group of Pioneers from Sunraysia are following a path tread in years past by the likes of Colin Sylvia, Mark Alvey, Daniel Elstone, Mark Alvey and more.