BENDIGO Pioneers’ 2017 season got off to a rocky start, going scoreless in its round one encounter against Eastern Ranges. But the Pioneers slowly found their feet, after a close loss against the GWV Rebels in round three, they scored a great win against Gippsland in round four.
The good news for the Pioneers came in the off-season, when two of their players were drafted to an AFLW list. Star forward, Eden Zanker was picked up by Melbourne, while Tiahna Cochrane has slotted onto Carlton’s rookie list. Watch out in 2018, because the Pioneers may have another AFLW draftee up their sleeve.
Jordyn Jolliffe is one player who can step up when her team needs her, and she was rewarded for her efforts throughout the season. The midfielder won the club’s best and fairest, and was selected in the 2017 TAC Cup Girls Team of the Year. Jolliffe is also in the GWS Academy, and will feature in the Bendigo leadership group, giving her every chance to the big time.
Sophie Kerridge is another player to watch this year, coming into the side as a top-age player. The 19 year-old is the sister of Sam Kerridge, who played for the Pioneers before being drafted to Carlton. Bendigo’s Talent Manager, Stephen Sharp is hopeful that Kerridge will play plenty of games for the Pioneers this season.
“Sophie is going to go to university in Melbourne, so we’ll have to wait and see how Sophie goes,” Sharp said.
The Pioneers had a practice match against the Calder Cannons recently, and Sharp was impressed with his side’s performance.
“We started really well and we got beaten by 20-odd points so we weren’t too disappointed,” he said. “The girls have improved and that’s what the program is about, it’s a development program. “We have to keep reminding the girls and the parents that the win is good, but it’s about improvement, so we’ll wait and see. “They’re all on board, they’re all keen, they can’t wait for the season to start so it’s good.”
Bendigo is a strong football region, but Sharp puts things into perspective for those living in a metropolitan region:
“We’ve got a different region, we’ve got five hours, nearly six hours from one end to the other,” he said. “We don’t have what the Calder Cannons or Geelong Falcons have where they get all their girls in from within an hour away. “We can’t even train together, we have three training bases (Mildura, Swan Hill and Bendigo).”
The trip from Mildura to Bendigo is a four and a half hour drive, so the girls travel far and wide to play the sport that they love. Sharp is pleased with both the boys’ and girls’ efforts around the club, whether they travel four hours or one hour to get to training.
“The girls’ attitude is great, the boys’ attitude is terrific,” he said. “Probably more for the girls it’s all new to them, so they are very open to learning, and on training night they go away learning, and are pretty excited about what they have improved (on) because they’re coming in with a lower base. “They haven’t been playing footy for six or eight or 10 years, so it’s more that attitude.”
Bendigo has every chance to get off to a good start, facing off against the Western Jets in round one, who were winless in 2017. However, the Pioneers will have to wait until round five to face the only team that they won against last season – Gippsland Power.