BENDIGO Pioneers players who impress at NAB League under-19 level next year will get the chance to step up into the VFL for either Carlton or Essendon.
The Pioneers have secured the Blues and Bombers as their VFL pathway partner teams for the 2021 season.
"There will be a really good opportunity there for our boys next year to be able to train with either Carlton or Essendon and then at various stages throughout the season to potentially play some VFL games," Pioneers head coach Damian Truslove said on Friday.
"In the VFL next year teams will need to play six players aged between 19 and 22, so if either Carlton or Essendon think our boys are in that top six for a particular game then they will get invited to play, which is exciting.
"We're looking forward to building our relationship with both clubs, and there will also be opportunities for our staff to be able to get some experience in those programs as well.
"We want there to be a real pathway there for our coaches, starting by coming into our academy system, then into the Pioneers and then into VFL.
"We see that as a really good pathway for the talented coaches in our region.
"From a playing point of view, it could be an opportunity for someone like a Sam Conforti or Cobi Maxted to be able to run around with AFL-listed players, which could be a couple of former Pioneer boys in Brodie Kemp at Carlton or Jye Caldwell at Essendon."
Both Essendon and Carlton have stand-alone teams in the VFL, which will next year feature 22 teams from three states - Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
Carlton and Essendon's VFLW teams are also the Pioneers' partner for their girls program.
PIONEERS BOYS UNDER-19 TRAINING SQUAD:
Meanwhile, the Pioneers' girls begin pre-season training on Sunday at Epsom-Huntly.
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