PREVIEW | 2024 Coates Talent League Girls: Bendigo Pioneers

BENDIGO Pioneers head into 2024 with plenty of exciting prospects, as coach Whitney Kennedy spoke about their trio of top-age Vic Country hub members and others to watch. While the challenges for the region remain – particularly regarding travel and having the group together outside of matchday – the Pioneers are keen to make sure the entire playing list is able to be given every opportunity to succeed.


Lucia Painter (Utility)
23/02/2006 | 174cm

Painter is coming off a year derailed by an ankle injury. The top-end talent who is likely to be at the pointy end of the draft, starred as a 16-year-old, winning Vic Country’s MVP at the 2022 AFLW Under 17 Championships. She has proven herself as a midfielder, defender and even forward, which gives the Pioneers a great scope of versatility when it comes to slotting her onto the magnetic board. A powerful player with dual-sided capabilities.

Whitney Kennedy says: “Lou did have some ankle surgery at the backend of last year, her recovery process has been a little bit of a rollercoaster. There have absolutely been some challenging times for her, but credit to her, she’s shown great resilience and really hard work and perseverance to get through it. She’s worked incredibly diligently with our high performance and physio team.”

Jemmika Douglas (Midfielder/Forward)
20/02/2006 | 166cm

Another who unfortunately missed a chunk of last season due to injury, Douglas is coming off representing the Under 23 All-Stars against the AFLW Academy. She started in the midfield on that occasion, and will likely to so for the Pioneers before going forward. Her skills as athleticism stand out as key traits in her game and will add great support to Painter in the forward half of the ground.

Lexi Gregor (Forward)
07/04/2006 | 180cm

Gregor missed the entire Talent League Girls season last year with a back injury after playing nine games in her double bottom-age season. One of the few players to have also played in 2021 – where she played four games – Gregor is back and ready to make an impact in season 2024. While often undersized at times, the Pioneers will appreciate having Gregor’s size inside 50 to be a marking target.

Whitney Kennedy says: “Jemmika Douglas has recently relocated from Mildura down to Bendigo which is really exciting for her, and our program as well. Lexi Gregor has missed probably 12-18 months of footy due to a back injury, so phenomenal story, really excited for what her season’s going to look like. She’s back to full training, full training load, full contact.”


Whitney Kennedy says: “We’ve got a couple of others who will hopefully have some really good seasons, so we’ve got Gabby Drage. She’s a key forward, pretty exciting player, got a fair bit of X-factor and flair, beautiful set shot on goal, pretty reliable up forward for us and provides a great target alongside Lexi.

Sasha Pearce in the ruck, she’s plus-180cm and has a great ability to cover a lot of ground for a tall and has a bit of speed as well. Her aerial work is fantastic, vertical jump is great so super excited to see her. I’m sure there will be some others who will, probably not surprise us, but there’s probably three or four others who I could name. we’re just hoping that everyone has a great season and the biggest thing is that they will help each other get better.”

2024 GOALS

Whitney Kennedy says: “Our playing group has worked really, really well at being well connected and just injecting a lot of fun and enjoyment into their footy, really making sure we really are supporting each other, making each other look good and we’re developing a really strong culture where people want to be a part of our program, that’s the biggest thing and then I think from there, individual efforts and team efforts come. People play well when they’re happy so hopefully they’re some of things that we’re hoping to aspire to and achieve and we’ll take the one week at a time cliché, review from week to week and we’ll just go from there.”


Round 2: vs. Calder Cannons | Sunday, April 14 @ Queen Elizabeth Oval

Whitney Kennedy says: “We work closely with the high performance to make sure that we are ticking off all the things that we need to be ticking off and that we’re setting our playing group up really well for a really great season. When the 14th rolls around, that’s for us, that’s our Round 1 and we’ll be ready to go.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments