HUNDREDS of youngsters will be aiming to play like stars such as Selwood, Stringer, Geary, Martin and many more in this weekend’s start to the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Junior Football League season.
There will be 151 teams in action across a wide range of age groups when grading or round one matches are played this Saturday or Sunday.
Junior footy operations manager for AFL Central Victoria, Nathan Williams said the Bendigo Bank JFL continued to go from strength to strength.
“To have 151 teams competing is a fantastic result,” Williams said.
Breakdown of teams for the ’22 season is across the under-9 and under-10 mixed teams who will play Saturday mornings, the under-12 girls on Friday night, and under-12 and under-14 mixed, under-14 girls, under-16 boys, under-16 and under-18 girls.
“The under-9 and under-10, and under-12 girls do not play for premiership points,” said Williams.
“Emphasis in those age groups is on learning and developing skills, and most importantly having fun.
“It’s the same for the older age groups who do play for premiership points, but enjoying being part of a team and doing your best are the major goals in junior footy.
“The clubs have worked extremely hard to keep player numbers on a par with previous seasons.
“Covid has tested us all, especially when the 2021 season was called off early.”
Last year most age groups were able to play 12 rounds, but there were no finals.
Williams said volunteers played a crucial role in the Bendigo Junior Football League.
“Whether it be coaches, team managers, runners, goal umpires, trainers, the volunteers are so important.
“Without them the league would not be as successful as it is and kept on going as long as it has.”
First four weeks of the season for under-12 mixed, under-14 mixed, and under-16 boys will be grading matches.
This week all of those games will be on Saturday.
“Grading is a really important aspect,” Williams said.
“We have input from the clubs, but also independent observers at matches.
“Ideally we have close margins and competitive matches in all age groups once grading is complete.”
For players and parents there will be plenty of criss-crossing to grounds in Bendigo or further afield.
Rochester Tigers will compete in under-14, as North Bendigo marks a return to the competitive section of league.
The City of Greater Bendigo-based clubs in the league are Eaglehawk, Golden Square, Heathcote, Huntly, Kangaroo Flat, Maiden Gully YCW, Marong, North Bendigo, Quarry Hill, Sandhurst, South Bendigo, St Francis of the Field, St Kilian’s-St Peter’s, St Monica’s, St Therese’s, Strathfieldsaye, and White Hills.
Teams from Castlemaine, Kyneton, Maryborough, Rochester, and Woorinen will also be in action.
“Many of those playing in the AFL, or even in country leagues made their start with a junior footy club,” Williams said.
Some players take their first step on the journey this weekend as many others aim to take a speccy, kick a miracle goal, or make that crucial spoil in defence.
Written by Nathan Dole.