Quicker ball movement and increased pressure are the key focus points for the Bendigo Pioneers as they enter the pointy end of pre-season training.
The Rural Bank Pioneers under-18 boys, under-16 boys and under-18 girls impressed in trial games against the Calder Cannons last weekend.
The under-18 boys has squad has been cut from 135 to 90, the under-16 boys squad remains at 60 players, while the under-18 girls' squad is down to 35.
The teams are in the middle of an intense two-week training block ahead of the next series of practice matches against the Greater Western Victoria Giants in Ballarat on February 25.
"I was very happy with the way we played (against Calder),'' Pioneers' under-18 boys coach Rick Coburn said.
"We moved the ball well and our pressure was very good.
"We were a poor tackling side last year and we want to put more pressure on the ball carrier this year.
"At times last year we weren't instinctive enough with our first option. In the off-season we've worked on moving the ball quickly and giving that first option.
"It's all about speed - reduce the ball speed of the opposition and move the ball quicker when we have it."
The Pioneers play Murray Bushrangers at Punt Rd on March 4 before rounding out the pre-season with a camp in Melbourne on the weekend of March 10-11.
The camp will include a presentation by AFL club Carlton at Ikon Park and the annual TAC Cup fitness testing session.
“Our final squad will be announced after the practice game against Murray,’’ Coburn said.
The first game of the TAC Cup season is against the GWV Rebels on March 24 in Ballarat.
Meanwhile, the upside in the Pioneers’ under-18 girls is “enormous” according to coach Shawn McCormick.
McCormick said the Pioneers girls were showing some great signs leading into their second season.
“We have more depth in our squad this year and we have a good compliment of younger and older players,’’ McCormick said.
“We actively targeted girls from other sports and we have about eight girls in the squad who have had little footy experience. Their development has been terrific.
“The upside across the whole group is enormous.”
An inexperienced Pioneers side struggled against bigger and stronger opponents in season one of the TAC Cup girls competition, but McCormick was confident his side would be more competitive in 2018.
“I was really happy with the way the girls played in the practice match against Calder,’’ he said. “We went down by four goals in the end, but we were in front at quarter time and it was a vast improvement on last year.”
The Pioneers’ girls first game of the season is on Saturday, March 3 against the Western Jets at Epsom Huntly-Recreation Reserve.