A NEW chapter - and with it new expectations - has arrived for the Bendigo Thunder.
The Thunder will play their first game in the new Northern Football League Women's competition against Darebin this Sunday at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Things new will not be limited to hopes and ambitions, with the Thunder set to field a team vastly different to the one which finished runners-up in the former VWFL Premier Division in 2016.
Gone are the club's inaugural three AFL Women's league draftees, two free agents and one mid-season acquisition, along with a handful of others.
Replacements have not been to hard to find, according to second-year coach Cherie O'Neill, with as many as 60 girls fronting for training during the pre-season.
The Thunder will also field a development team this season.
"We have had a lot of new faces come on-board, which has been great for the club," she said.
"It's brought a new vibe to the place and has really energised a lot of last year's players.
"I know we have lost a few with the AFL Women's competition, but we've had lots more come on board and it will be exciting to see them play during the season."
Notable inclusions include Bendigo Spirit WNBL star Kerryn Harrington, former Bendigo Lady Braves basketball stalwart Andrea Walsh and young Bendigo soccer ace Ally Van Dalen.
Leah French is the Thunder’s new captain and will be backed by ruck and new vice-captain Jac Louttit.
O’Neill said French, the Thunder’s 2015 best and fairest, had responded magnificently to the leadership role.
"She's stepped up and is doing a great job working with Jac - those two are really taking the lead at training," she said.
"I can't wait to see what the do on-field this Sunday.
"That said we've had a lot of girls step-up outside of our leaders."
Flushed with player numbers, O'Neill admitted it had been a hard task settling on a side for the game against perennial women's football powerhouse Darebin.
But she was confident the Thunder could emerge with the points on home soil.
"We are trying to organise a practice match for the seconds to try and give them a game as well," she said.
"The good player numbers is certainly a good thing to have."
The Thunder-Falcons clash kicks-off at 2pm.
ROUND ONE TEAM v Darebin
B. Hannah Perry Jess Ross Rochelle Daley
HB. Laura Flanagan Meg Jennings Paige Condor
C. Emily Findlay Kerryn Harrington Louise Bobby
HF. Alyx Glanville Ayrlea Bailey Carro Lee
F. Ruby Campbell Andrea Walsh Jamie Lee Sawer
R. Jac Loutit Leah French Tiahna Cochrane
Inter. Aish Tupper Kodi Jacques Sarah Moerke Lil Waters Sam May Ally Van Dalen