By Lauren Bordin.
After a long build-up, the region’s new women’s football league has a start date.
Sunday, May 7, will mark the opening round for the joint competition between Goulburn Valley and Bendigo teams named the Northern Country Women’s Football League.
All eight sides will contest a 10-round competition before the top four play off in a finals series.
Divided into conferences to lessen the amount of travel, teams in the same group will play each other twice and the remainder once.
Shepparton, Benalla, Mooroopna and Echuca form part of the same conference.
All of the Goulburn Valley sides will open up their campaigns with a home match, although venues are still to be decided.
Shepparton will host Kerang as it looks to stamp its mark on the competition and show its worth as an already established side that played in the Victorian Women’s Football League.
John Wilson has taken charge of the Bears after inaugural coach Britt Tancred crossed back to Mooroopna, where she played in her youth.
Tancred will take centre stage in the forward line when the Cats face up to Kyneton before a Goulburn Valley blockbuster against Echuca in round two.
The Murray Bombers are certainties to play North Bendigo at Victoria Park in the opening round, while Benalla will look to capitalise on a strong pre-season when it hosts Bendigo Thunder.
Finals will begin on the last weekend in July, with the top two sides of the competition to play off in the grand final on August 13.
Times and venues have not been confirmed, as Goulburn Valley sides consider the prospect of playing double-headers with their men’s sides.
Former Shepparton District Junior Football League president Chris Thomas is chairman of the women’s league.
Eager to continue involvement in women’s football after being a big advocate of the youth girls competition in the SDJFL, Thomas said teams in the competition were looking strong.
‘‘Practice matches have been held over the past few weeks and we have been getting really positive feedback from teams about their preparations and playing numbers,’’ he said.
‘‘Clubs are being encouraged to look at double-headers and feature games to add value to the draw and to promote the competition.’’