THE Bendigo Pioneers have established partnerships with VFLW clubs Essendon and Carlton in what's a boost for female football in the region.
The partnerships will allow the Pioneers to act as a feeder club for both the Bombers and Blues' VFLW teams and provide opportunities at the next level for players who perform well with Bendigo in the NAB League under-19s.
Both clubs have a history with the region, with Bendigo being the former recruiting zone of Carlton, while Essendon previously had a VFL alignment with Bendigo between 2003 and 2012.
"We're going to be aligned with Essendon and Carlton's VFLW teams, which is really exciting," Bendigo Pioneers head coach Damian Truslove said on Thursday.
"What this means for our top-age girls is if they perform well for us in the NAB League there will be a chance for them to get promoted to either Essendon or Carlton's VFLW team during the season.
"So with this we feel there's a really strong pathway now for female football from community football to the Pioneers and then onto the VFLW.
"We think this is a great opportunity for our girls."
So with this we feel there's a really strong pathway now for female football from community football to the Pioneers and then onto the VFLWDamian Truslove - Pioneers head coach
In an extra boost as part of the Essendon partnership, on Thursday $6.28 million in state government funding was announced to complete stage two of the Bombers' Hangar home base, which will have a focus on growing female football participation with developments such as changerooms, medical and match-day facilities.
"Essendon Football Club will now boast best-practice, dedicated women's football facilities for our VFLW and women's pathway programs as we prepare to secure our AFLW licence," Essendon president Paul Brasher said.
There will also be a VFL partnership for the Pioneers' boys program, but there has been no announcement yet on which club.
"It's a great opportunity for the players, but also creates a chance for our coaches as well," Truslove said.
"I'd really hope our assistant coaches, who we're hoping to name on Friday, will spend a year or two with us and then move onto the VFL and VFLW.
"And then, hopefully, they move onto the AFL or AFLW, so there's a pathway all the way through for a coach as well as players.
"The AFL has been doing a power of work in this space and I think they've nailed it; it's really exciting."
With confirmation of the VFLW partnerships with Essendon and Carlton, there will be the opportunity for some Pioneers' players to trial with both clubs during the pre-season for the chance to be put on their lists.
The partnerships with the Bombers and Blues comes a week after the Pioneers announced their squad of under-19 girls players to start pre-season training.
An initial squad of 35 was named last week, but has since had three players added to it - Pearl Sullivan, Emma Gilligan and Abbey Barber.
The 2021 NAB League girls season will begin in February and run in conjunction with both the AFLW and VFLW seasons.
Training for the Pioneers girls is scheduled to start on Sunday, November 22.
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