BENDIGO Thunder coach Russell Jeffrey has announced his retirement as head coach, just days after the club's final Victorian Women's Football League home-and-away match for 2014.
Born and bred in Rupanyup, Jeffrey's coaching knowledge led him to be a driving force for women's football throughout the Bendigo region.
He began his coaching career back in 1982, when he took the helm of the Eaglehawk Football Club reserves team, and had been involved at Thunder since its inception in 2011.
“When I was approached to coach Thunder, I consulted with my great friend Alan Wells, who was my runner at Marong," he said.
"Alan recognised the potential for the growth of women’s football and was very encouraging."
Four years on, and he had accomplished sporting feats not many people can say they have achieved.
Jeffrey coached Thunder to two premiership flags and saw them promoted into the VWFL's premier division.
Though Bendigo endured a tough season in the higher grade this year - losing all 11 matches by hefty margins - its head coach stuck by the girls and gave plenty of support both on and off the field.
“From the moment we stepped into the premier league, I was under no illusions that it would be easy," he said.
"My job was to get the team into the highest level and commence a developmental phase that would lead to success in the future.”
Jeffrey believes the sport has a big future in Bendigo.
“Women’s football is a growth sport. Each year, more and more young girls and women are pulling on the boots. I think the future is extremely bright and that is why I am not the least bit daunted by our results this season.
"The Bendigo youth girls' competition continues to grow and develop; Echuca has a strong youth girls team; and Thunder will keep improving as girls graduate up through the ranks.”
Jeffrey said he now hoped to watch footy from the sidelines and spend time with his family, who had supported him through every step of his coaching career.
I can say it has been an absolute pleasure to be coached by him and I wish him all the best in the future.
Bendigo's youth girls also wrapped up their home-and-away season last weekend.
Final placings reflect last year's results, with Castlemaine again finishing on top of the ladder, equal on points with Strathfieldsaye.
Huntly was again third and will take on Kyneton in the elimination final this Sunday at 1.45pm at Harry Trott Oval.
Castlemaine and Strathfieldsaye will battle it out the following Sunday, with the winner earning the week off in the following finals round.
Can Castlemaine make it two premierships in a row? Can Huntly finally break the drought after having unsuccessfully contested the last four grand finals?
Will Strathfieldsaye or Kyneton break through the finals rounds to play in the grand final for the first time?
Good luck to all the youth girls players and support staff competing in the finals.
Play well, play safe and remember, you are all winners simply for "having a go"!
Grace Campbell is the AFL Victoria-Bendigo Advertiser Female Football Ambassador. Schools interested in Grace hosting a girls' football clinic can contact Tony McNamara on 0419 103 178.