ROCHESTER’S Bendigo Pioneers are just days away from returning to training with the NAB League club.
A modified NAB League season will finally get underway for the boys on August 23 with the girls side set to resume on September 5.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions only regional teams including the Murray Bushrangers, Geelong Falcons, Gippsland Power and Greater Western Victoria Rebels will take part.
Pioneers talent manager Steve Sharp said the teams would be back on the track from August 4.
“We'll train Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays for the first couple of weeks and then we play the Murray Bushrangers on August 23 at the QEO,” Sharp told the Bendigo Advertiser.
“Fingers crossed that we can contain the virus and we can get the season underway.”
With the return of representative football now just around the corner, Sharp said excitement was continuing to grow within the playing group.
“Everyone is really excited because we weren't sure if the season would go ahead and there's so many leagues around Australia that aren't playing,” Sharp said.
“It's great to see the Bendigo and Goulburn Valley under 18s getting a start (last weekend).
“It's great for all these kids to get the chance to play some footy.
“We'll only be able to have limited staff under the guidelines, but they're excited to get back involved.
“I'm sure the AFL recruiters are excited as well that they'll have some footy to watch.
“They'll watch some games at local level in Bendigo and Goulburn Valley and then have a look at us when we start against Murray in round one.”
AFL head of talent and state league competitions Tristan Salter said the governing body remained hopeful of playing some competitive games despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic still having a heavy influence on any plans going forward.
“All levels of the game across the country have been impacted by the health pandemic this year,” Salter said.
“Throughout this season we have anchored every decision in line with the advice of the respective government and relevant medical authorities.
“Our return to play plans and our timings is evidence of that,” he said.
“The evolving situation across Victoria has meant we have had to make decisions based on geographical locations of players and clubs to ensure we give as many players the opportunity to play NAB League games this year.
“While we would prefer to provide a standard season of NAB League football for girls and boys across the entire state, this outcome ensures an opportunity for many players to continue their journey in the talent pathway.”