For the first time since 2015, Tatura will field a women’s team as the Bendigo Amateur Soccer League kicks off this weekend.
The Ibises have fought to get the numbers together and, despite not harbouring ambitions of a first-season championship, will face off with Shepparton South this weekend in round one.
Coach Laurie Rando said getting a side together hadn’t been an easy task, but was a fantastic step for his club.
‘‘It’s been a few years since we’ve had a senior women’s side, the club’s got together and really worked hard to get a side,’’ he said.
‘‘There were a few girls floating around the club who wanted to play — and they gave me a call and pulled me out of retirement.
‘‘We don’t have the luxury of being in Shepparton and having all the people there being situated a lot further away, but we do have a couple of girls from Shepp and it’s good they make the effort.’’
A relatively inexperienced squad makes the 2018 BASL campaign a learning experience for the Ibises.
‘‘It’s definitely a challenge, we have six or seven who have never played before, and three or four that played at the school level and are now looking to step up to seniors,’’ Rando said.
‘‘All in all, it’s a challenge, we’re having fun; we probably won’t be the champions but we want to be competitive.’’
But it is safe to assume Shepparton South won’t be taking it easy when it welcomes the Ibises to town tomorrow.
South enters 2018 with a different looking squad and new coach Ralph Guiliani, who coached South’s youth side last season.
After finishing fourth last year 20 points back from the top-two sides, Guiliani said a more attacking style might take his side forward.
‘‘We’re not putting great expectations on our side, we just want to be in the mix,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ll keep working on our game plan, practice match form looked very competitive so we think we’ve got good quality.
‘‘Every club is an unknown, so we just focus on trying to get wins and not worrying about the score. If you win 1-0 every week, you’ll win the championship.’’
But the region’s most formidable side remains Shepparton United, after a season of scintillating football in 2017 netted it the maiden BASL title.
United’s stats speak for themselves — it won 17 of 18 regular season games, scoring 93 goals in the process and conceding just six.
Even second-ranked Epsom proved no match in the grand final, they were swept aside 6-0 for United to claim the championship.
Megan McFarland, who netted twice in the decider, steps up as a playing-coach this campaign and said last year’s dominance meant nothing going forward.
‘‘It’s a pretty fresh-looking squad but I’m happy with how it’s all coming along,’’ she said.
‘‘A good group of core players has hung around, we’ve obviously lost a few experienced heads, and we’ve got some young faces stepping up as well.
‘‘But it’s 2018, not 2017. It’s a blank slate for us, and with a new bunch you can’t go in expecting to be as dominant as we were.’’
United’s season begins tomorrow with a trip to Eaglehawk, last year’s fifth-place finisher.