The Bendigo Pioneers girls footy program continues to kick goals.
This year's squad is preparing for its first game in the statewide under-18 competition on March 2 and coach Shawn McCormick has been impressed by what he's seen in the pre-season.
"There's been a pronounced improvement in relation to skill acquisition, but just as importantly the girls have really improved their footy nous and game sense,'' McCormick, who is in his second year as coach of the program, said.
"There's more talent involved in the program, particularly in the regionals areas of our catchment like Hay, Conargo and Blighty.
"We still have a scenario where a number of our girls come to us from elite sporting backgrounds, but as the years go on you'll see it more and more where the girls are entrenched in footy as their primary sport.
"We'll have girls come into the program on the back of four or five years of footy whereas two years ago we were selecting girls on potential rather than defined footy achievements at community level."
McCormick said the girls' most impressive attribute was their attitude.
"They're like sponges. They want to learn and they're very receptive,'' McCormick said.
"They're great to deal with and there's no airs and graces about them.
"We're blessed to have so many girls that are enthusiastic about footy."
Training centres in Bendigo, Mildura and Echuca have been operating since early November.
While the majority of the under-18 squad and futures squad comes from the Bendigo region, McCormick said the talent pool was growing in the northern areas.
“We’ll have 10 to 12 girls from the Swan Hill and Mildura area combined and then another eight to 10 from the Echuca and Deniliquin catchment areas,’’ he said.
“We’ll have 25 to 30 players from Bendigo down to Castlemaine and Kyneton.
“It’s hard when the region is so spread out, but we’ve had coaches in each region for the entire pre-season and the girl have trained twice a week since early November.”
The Pioneers’ first practice match is against the Murrah Bushrangers in Shepparton this weekend.
“We go in with no pre-conceived ideas about a lot of the girls because it’s not until you see them play against competitive opposition that you see a lot of of the things that you’re looking for,’’ McCormick said.
“I sense that we’ll improve as an outfit at under-18 level and futures level, but I’m sure the other franchises will also improve dramatically.
“Next week we’ll do a heavy load of training and then get ready for our first game on March 2.
“We’d love to win as many games as we can, but our number one aim is to make sure the girls develop as footballers so that when they come back to community football they are improved players.
“It’s also about the players at the elite end that can continue to progress with their football journey.”
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