Pioneer trio arrive home

By Andrew Johnston

FOR the Echuca-based members of the La Trobe University Bendigo Pioneers, tomorrow is a dream come true.

The elite under 18 side will take to Victoria Park tomorrow afternoon against the Sandringham Dragons in the only major football match to be played in Echuca this weekend due to interleague matches being played across Victoria.

For Riley Clarke, running out tomorrow in the Pioneers jumper is more than just a return to his home town.

‘‘It’s also (a return to the) home club really,’’ he said.

‘‘Being an Echuca boy, it’s really something special to run out onto Victoria Park in front of our crowd and get to represent the Pioneers.’’

He won’t be alone on game day, with fellow Echuca residents Jack Evans and Joe Guiney also taking to the field in the blue and gold.

Pioneers talent manager Steve Sharp said it was an honour for the club to play in the region.

‘‘We’re incredibly excited to bring the game to town,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve done a lot of work in recent years with the young players who are becoming Pioneers out of the region.

‘‘We’ve set up a training base in Moama during the pre-season with the help of the Moama Bowling Club which allows players from across the region to train together without putting the stress on families of having to travel to Bendigo every week.’’

The Pioneers will be desperate to get a victory after a falling to Tasmania in their round seven clash, when a goal after the siren gave the Devils a two-point win.

Despite having two wins on the year, there is still high hopes around the Pioneers season.

‘‘We’re in a really good position for the season,’’ Clarke said.

‘‘The playing group is really committed to the program and to having success, everyone is really professional in the way they are preparing for their games, so we are giving ourselves the best possible chance to win games of football.

‘‘A thing about this league is you never know who is going to show up on the day. You could be last and beat first any time you play, so if we do things the right way, we can be the side who wins games of football.’’

But while success is the top of the priority list for most players, Clarke admits being home is front of mind.

‘‘I’m really just excited to play in front of a home crowd,’’ he said.

‘‘We aren’t on the road, we get to stay at home and enjoy being with family and we get to bring a really good sporting program to our town and show the people of Echuca what the Pios have to offer to young footballers.’’

■ The Bendigo Pioneers v Sandringham Dragons match begins at 1pm on Saturday afternoon at Victoria Park.