BFNL Launches Season at Bendigo Mazda


EXPECTATIONS are high about on-field and on-court prospects of all Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football League clubs leading into the 2024 season.

Whether they are in the premiership window, chasing a finals berth, or aiming to break a winless run, there’s plenty at stake for all nine clubs.

The ’24 campaign kicks off with a stand-alone match on Good Friday between Castlemaine and Maryborough at Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve.

At Friday’s season launch, Bendigo FNL chairwoman Carol McKinstry said there was plenty to be “excited about” in the footy and netball action.

McKinstry said all clubs had worked extremely hard across the pre-season, not just on the ovals and courts, but also the many volunteers who chip in.

The league chief said the long-time support of Bendigo Bank as league’s naming rights sponsor, and of Bendigo Mazda as backer of netball meant a lot.

“We have incredible support from a wide range of sponsors, and media partners.”

Guests at the launch included Jack Henty, Growth Manager for AFL Victoria.

Henty said community football played a crucial role right across the country.

“There is 10 per cent of AFL revenue directed towards community football,” Henty said.

“Those funds could be for game development, community football, participation, facilities, and support for volunteers.

“There is plenty being done and will be done to help the game keep growing.”

Among the many goals is resources to assist club volunteers and the grass-roots.

“We will have resources aimed at assisting club administrators on volunteers on target areas such as membership, not only building membership, but retaining members,” Henty said.

Clearly the biggest growth area for AFL is women’s and girls football.

“A goal is to have a million registered participants by 2033.

“We are around the 500,000 mark.

“Biggest opportunity to grow the game is women’s and girls football and providing pathways from Auskick to club level and the higher levels.”

In terms of umpiring, the Bendigo Umpires Association declared numbers were on a par with last season.

There were few games the BUA could not officiate in last season.

The BUA is always keen to welcome new recruits and those who may have umpired and are looking to return to the fold.

Training for the BUA is held on Tuesday and Thursday nights at Weeroona Oval in Bendigo.

The umpires group is a diverse range of ages, backgrounds and interests.

On the footy front it’s Golden Square which starts the season as reigning premier.

There’s been plenty of change since the Bulldogs hoisted the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup last September.

Among the moves was the election of Andrew Wicking as president.

There’s new coaching groups for the football and netball of the Wade Street-based clubs.

“The players have been working exceptionally hard,” Wicking said.

Brad Eaton is now coach as the club chases back-to-back premierships.

A key message by Eaton going into ’24 for the players was “why not us” in terms of capturing the premiership again.

“We are in it to win it,” Wicking said.

Last season’s runner-up, Sandhurst launched another fruitful recruiting campaign.

Among the signings were midfielder Lachlan Tardrew who was previously captain of Collingwood in the VFL, and former Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn forward, Fergus Greene.

Both will play key roles in a Dragons’ line-up that includes Jake McLean.

“Lachy and Ferg bring plenty of experience to the group,” McLean said.

“They set high standards in training.

“The intensity Fergus plays at and trains at is incredible.”

Another team chasing back-to-back flags is Gisborne in the A-grade netball competition.

Mid-court star and co-captain Kirby Elliott said Gisborne had retained most of last season’s grand final-winning team.

The only departure is Zoe Davies who is playing in England’s Netball Super League with Leeds Rhinos.

A massive plus is the return of Maddy Stewart, a dual winner of the Betty Thompson Medal as fairest and best in the Bendigo FNL competition.

Gisborne’s greatest challenges are likely to be from Sandhurst and Kangaroo Flat.

Round one in the BFNL season will be completed on April 13.

Highlights include the Eaglehawk and Golden Square clash on the Borough’s turf in Canterbury Park.

Strathfieldsaye and South Bendigo will meet in Storm territory at Triple M Park in Tannery Lane.

The day’s play will be completed with the twilight match between Kangaroo Flat and Sandhurst under lights on the Roos’ ground in Dower Park.

Gisborne has the bye.

The Bulldogs will make their way to Queen Elizabeth Oval on April 20 to take on Sandhurst.