The Bendigo Pioneers' under-18 girls will get a strong indication of just how much they've improved when they host the powerful Eastern Ranges on Saturday.
One practice match victory and a nail-biting round one loss to Greater Western Victoria Rebels indicate a steady rate of improvement from 2018 when the team struggled to be competitive.
"The Melbourne-based teams have a bigger population to choose from, but we're really happy with the way our girls are going,''coach Shawn McCormick said.
"In the two games we've played we've seen a vast improvement in the collective output of the team.
"They are growing in confidence and they are growing in their footy smarts.
"We can be a little more advanced in the way we can talk to them about footy compared to a year ago.
"That's not being partonising, it's just that they're really developing their football."
A new initiative in the NAB League is three development rounds.
This weekend is the first development round of 2019, with the Pioneers' bottom-age players to play in a curtain-raiser to the main game.
"The development games give us the chance to intergrate the 16 and 17-year-old girls into the training program,'' McCormick said.
"The girls train with the full squad all season and that can only help their development going forward.
"With the growth of girls footy we now have adequate numbers and we have a strong group of players that are quite capable."
The top-age Pioneers' girls side will be strengthened this week by the return of key midfielder Bree Heiden.
"We get Bree Heiden back this week from injury and she's improved leaps and bounds,'' McCormick said.
"Bree comes from a netball background where she plays A-grade in the Bendigo Football Netball League."
Pioneers' under-18 girls senior team to play Eastern Rangers on Saturday:
B: Kaitlyn Hazlett, Kate Douglass, Shae Oliver
Hb: Kaitlin Mitchell, Tara Slender, Eloise Gretgrix
C: Elizabeth Snell, Bree Heiden, Maeve Tupper
Hf: Dakota Villia, Hannah Stewart, Annabel Strachan
F: Madeline Barton, Jordyn Joliffe, Theodora Mialouis
Foll: Grace Sladden, Jemma Finning, Brooke Hards
Inter: Emma Peacock, Dayna Kelly-Guthrie, Chantelle Mitchell, Emily Cooper
Development team to play Eastern Ranges in Bendigo on Saturday:
B: Rachel Stubbings, Octavia Di Danoto, Lily Den Hounting
Hb: Ebony Arnold, Maddison Curran, Drew Ryan
C: Tara Hopkins, Charlotte McGillvray, Imogen O’Neil
Hf: Mia Ward, Grace Barton, Eliza Bell
F: Molly Pianta, Tenealle Fenton, Shelby Hooker
Foll: Madeline Marks, Jayda Richardson, Tahlia Coad
Inter: Jayda Richardson, Maizy Edwards, Jorja Osborne, Lily Mensforth
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