THE success and growth of women's football in the AFL Central Victoria region will be cause for celebration this Sunday at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
A showcase of women's football will include a pair of matches involving the Bendigo Thunder and a football clinic to be run by Bendigo AFLW stars Hayley Trevean (Carlton) and Elise Strachan (Melbourne).
These will be followed by a function to congratulate and inspire the next generation of AFLW footballers, led by Richmond AFL Women's football operations manager Kate Sheahan.
The former Collingwood AFLW player will be joined by a panel of former Thunder players who have made their mark in the women's national competition, including Trevean, Strachan, Collingwood's Emma Grant, Carlton's Jess Kennedy and Bella Ayre, who has crossed from Carlton to Brisbane.
The celebration of female football comes as participation numbers continue to soar across the state.
AFL statistics show it took eight years to grow the first 100 female teams in Victoria, two years to grow the next 100 and one year to grow the next 100 teams (in 2016).
This growth has been reflected in central Victoria, with the Bendigo Junior Football League starting its youth girls (under-18) competition in 2011 with five teams.
Following the introduction of under-12s in 2015 and under-15s this year, the BJFL now has 24 teams, an increase of eight on last season.
The region also has three teams competing in the newly formed Northern Country Women’s League, including the Thunder's reserves team.
AFL Central Victoria regional general manager Carol Cathcart urged everyone to join the celebration at the QEO.
"We are delighted to have Kate Sheahan, who played for Collingwood in the inaugural season of AFLW and has recently been appointed as Richmond's AFL Women's Football Operations Manager, speak at the function.
"Part of Kate’s role is to facilitate the females in the Next Generation Academies for Richmond, and with Bendigo being aligned to Richmond she will play a pivotal role in assisting to develop our next crop of talented female footballers.”
Bendigo Thunder general manager Bryan Coghlan said: “If you haven't seen a women's footy game his is certainly the day to do it.
"Besides free entry you will see the future of AFLW running around for the Bendigo Thunder on the iconic QEO."
Sunday's line-up includes:
11.30am - Northern Country Women's League match between Bendigo Thunder and Kerang;
1.15-1.45pm - Primary school football clinic led by AFLW's Hayley Trevean and Elise Strachan;
2-4pm - Inflatables available for children.
2pm - Northern Football League Women's clash between Bendigo Thunder and Melbourne University;
4.30-6.15pm - Function featuring Kate Sheahan and Bendigo's AFLW stars.