Australian rules football has always been a major part of central Victoria's sports community.
Once the women's team Bendigo Thunder emerged, it became the key development team for many of the region's players who now find themselves signed to AFLW teams.
Among the list is Kerryn Harrington (Carlton Football Club), Kodi Jacques (Richmond Football Club) and Grace Campbell (Richmond) just to name a few.
"The growth of the sport has been unprecedented with what the AFLW has been able to achieve in such a short amount of time," Harrington said.
"Especially next year as we will see the league grow to 14 teams which speaks volumes for itself.
"I've now played two seasons in the AFLW and have loved every minute of it."
It was recently announced the AFLW would hold a 2020 season round four match between the Tigers and Cats at Bendigo's QEO.
"Anytime elite level sport can be showcased in regional towns, it shows women that it is a potential career path," Harrington said.
There are also numerous players who compete in the Central Victoria Football League Women's competition.
The CVFLW opened the door for women throughout the region to play every weekend during the football season.
Alana Long has been an avid footballer from a young age, and when the opportunity arose to be involved with a team in the CVFLW, she jumped at the chance.
Long has been involved with North Bendigo from its first year in the Northern Country Women's League and then moved with the team across to the CVFLW for the inaugural 2018 season.
"Previously I was with the Bendigo Thunder and played down in the Melbourne league for two years before we started North Bendigo," Long said.
"I was thrilled when North Bendigo wanted to start its own women's team, I have been with them from the very beginning."
Long has been a player and coach at North Bendigo for the past three years and has been a part of the growth of the game within the region.
"It's truly inspiring for the younger girls who want to play football," Long said.
"The league provides the pathway to have a go. If I compare it to when I first started playing women's football, it was no where near as popular as it is now."
Long's hope is that if more girls start playing at a younger age, it would then give the players greater long-term development opportunities as footballers.
"Most of us started out a bit older and have come from different sports, so we've had to learn the game and condition our bodies for it later in life which can be more difficult," Long said.
The long-term growth of the sport in Bendigo is the goal for the clubs involved with the CVFLW.
Golden Square's 2019 premiership coach Rick Ladson said the club was focused on the "longevity" of the league.
"At Golden Square we're a club that's committed to the longevity of the women's competition and it's all about the development of the girl's pathways to our league, the VFLW and the AFLW," Ladson said.
"The more people that invest in it and understand it's about player development rather than the wins and losses, it will give the players an opportunity to be the best they can be on and off the football field."
Ladson was impressed with the growth and positive emphasis now directed towards women's football.
"It's all come such a long way," he said.
"There are so many good news stories out of all the different women's leagues because young girls are now able to do what they have always wanted to do."
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