BENDIGO Pioneers might have finished on the bottom of the TAC Cup Girls ladder, but after a round one win and a competitive effort against top four side Eastern Ranges, there was plenty to like about the Pioneers season, including a number of future stars showing they were capable of matching it with more experienced players at the elite junior level.
R1: defeated Western Jets by 38 points
R2: lost to Murray Bushrangers by 40 points
R3: lost to GWV Rebels by 33 points
R4: lost to Eastern Ranges by 17 points
R5: lost to Gippsland Power by 12 points
R6: lost to Oakleigh Chargers by 61 points
R7: lost to Northern Knights by 71 points
R8: lost to Sandringham Dragons by 71 points
R9: lost to Dandenong Stingrays by 60 points
Megan Williamson: A spiritual leader who lead by example on an off the field. Along with Kodi Jacques in the midfield, Williamson continued to battle hard throughout the season and was consistently named in the bests for her performances. She earned a place in the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Girls’ Team of the Year, and the Swan Hill local will now take to senior football with Williamstown in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s. A tough and uncompromising inside midfielder, Williamson was a strong presence in the midfield and will also represent Vic Country at the National Under 18 Championships.
Kodi Jacques: Similar to Williamson, Jacques was consistently named among the Pioneers’ best and was a strong one-two combination in the midfield with her captain. Another player who won plenty of contested ball and would also get to the outside, Jacques was a player to watch throughout the season. Like Williamson, Jacques earned a spot in the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Girls’ Team of the Year for her efforts and has been working closely with the Richmond VFL Women’s side too.
Kate Douglass: Primarily stationed at centre half-back, Douglass also had stints up forward at times and provided a target. She had a raking long kick and was good one-on-one with great strength and desire to compete with any opponent. A bottom-ager, Douglass still has another year to go and will look to assert herself as one of the leaders at the Pioneers next season.
Maddie Baldwin: An exciting midfielder who added the pace to the Pioneers’ grunt work, and provided good acceleration along a wing at times.
Jemma Finning: 16 year-old midfielder who was named among the Pioneers’ best on a number of occasions and like Baldwin, added key depth to the Bendigo midfield.
Brooke Hards: A talented 15 year-old defender who showed on multiple occasions she was capable of standing up and playing a role in the back half. She provided good rebound and often intercepted forward charges.
Bendigo Pioneers started off the season in the best possible way – with a win over the Western Jets. Over the next month they were competitive against most sides but could not get the win, as the young side mostly featuring 15-17 year-olds tired and dropped their last four games by more than 10 goals. The talent shown in the 2001 and 2002 born players gave fans a glimpse that the future is bright, while the likes of Megan Williamson and Kodi Jacques led the way this season and will compete against senior bodies in the VFL Women’s. While the win-loss ratio is not what they might have hoped, the fight and dedication from the players to often travel hours on end to play, is to be commended and will only hold them in good stead for the future.