Good Friday did not just mark the beginning of the Goulburn Valley League season.
An abundance of young talent was seen at Deakin Reserve in football and netball ranks as the under-15s took to the court for the first time.
The first instalment of what is sure to become a budding rivalry between Shepparton and Shepparton United was sensational.
A passerby not realising what the age group was could have surely been mistaken for questioning if the division was under-17, if not even higher.
The skills on show were first-rate with clean movement through the midcourt and accurate shooting despite it being just the teams’ first outing together.
Notably, clubs have wholeheartedly gotten behind the concept.
Any early concerns when the idea was first conceived last season were no longer evident as a strong contingent of supporters crowded around the newly painted court.
Not only were A-grade players milling around, but Shepparton head coach Tracey Brereton and Shepparton United counterpart Di Hanslow were passing on feedback from the sidelines.
Both experienced coaches love blooding new talent and often bring up under-17 talent to the top tier, so there is no doubt that one of the under-15 brigade will be lining up for one of the 12 A-grade sides this season.
The plethora of girls attending tryouts showed how keen young players were to join a football/netball club atmosphere and is a sign that the instigation of under-16 GVL football next year will also be well-received.
As the Murray Bushrangers had an under-16 side competing at Mooroopna Recreation Reserve on Friday, many eyes took careful notice of this year’s potential draft crop at Deakin Reserve.
The crowds at 11.30am when Murray kicked off against Bendigo Pioneers were the same as when the marquee Bears v Demons game began more than six hours later.
TAC Cup football continues to be well received in the region, as GVL coaches and a large crowd also got around the Bushrangers’ sole game at Deakin Reserve last year.
In a rarity there will be a second match in Shepparton later on in the season, allowing fans to more carefully pinpoint which potential draftees could be heading to their AFL club.
Keeping the match to Murray taking on rival Bendigo also added to the atmosphere of the encounter with the region’s leagues also represented in the Pioneers’ outfit.
Moama under-17 premiership player Noah Wheeler was best-on for Bendigo in its loss as his silky skills through the midfield did not go unnoticed.
As vice-captain of the side he backs up Jacob Atley who holds the top job at the Pioneers where the Atley name has become a household one.
Mooroopna’s Laitham Vandermeer and Shepparton’s Lachie Ash rightfully had the home crowd cheering to start off the day with the perfect curtain-raiser.
While everyone loves watching the elite compete, the Goulburn Valley’s constant support of emerging talents shows the place for elite juniors in prime time is clearly there.