THE Rural Bank Bendigo Pioneers were one of the big talking points of the AFL National Draft on Friday night with six players selected, including two in the top 10.
Paddy Dow (Carlton, No.3), Lochie O’Brien (Carlton, No.10) – both pictured – Jarrod Brander (West Coast, No.13), Brent Daniels (GWS Giants, No.27), Kane Farrell (Port Adelaide, No.51) and Angus Schumacher (Carlton, No.70) are the latest crop of Pioneer draftees now on AFL lists.
Friday night’s tally of six draftees has only been bettered once in the Pioneers’ history – 1997 when the club had seven selected.
The haul of six, though, highlights one of the challenges the Pioneers are up against in regards to school and boarding opportunities in Geelong, Ballarat and Melbourne.
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The Pioneers’ first four draftees – Dow, O’Brien, Brander and Daniels – have all played limited TAC Cup football for the club over the past two years.
Instead, the bulk of their football has been played in the APS with Geelong Grammar, where they board on scholarships. Yet an endorsement for the Pioneers program is they chose to stay in the TAC Cup with Bendigo rather than join the Geelong Falcons.
The Pioneers had 11 relocated players at Bendigo Senior Secondary College this year and the school’s support is invaluable. But just consider a Pioneers’ team that regularly had Dow, O’Brien, Brander and Daniels, who all first played with the club as 16 year-olds, running around together this year.
The Pioneers have now had more players drafted (10) than games won (seven) over the past two years. But the TAC Cup is a development competition and 10 players drafted the past two years – and 12 the past three – is a massive tick for the club.
While there is a ladder and premiership up for grabs, wins ultimately play second fiddle to creating opportunities like Friday night for a strong hand in the National Draft.