THE 2017 Bendigo Football and Netball season gets underway this week with four Good Friday match-ups on the agenda.
A number of the league’s 10 clubs have either installed new lights at their grounds or updated their existing structures.
So night matches will be a feature of the BFNL draw early this season and again in August when the extended afternoon twilight means warmer weather is nigh.
Reigning premiers Sandhurst under the astute coaching of former Essendon rover Wayne Primmer kick off their flag defence against 2014-15 flag winners Strathfieldsaye.
That match will be played on Easter Saturday and an enormous holiday crowd is expected to pack into the Storm’s Flight Centre Park.
Before that, however, are Good Friday’s four scheduled clashes.
Prime among them will be the QEO afternoon clash between expected improvers South Bendigo and Eaglehawk.
The Bloods will welcome back playing coach Brady Childs who mentored South from the sidelines all 2016 because of a lingering knee re-construction recovery problem.
And the Two Blues, surprise preliminary finalists last September, welcome back 2010 Michelsen medallist Josh Bowe as their playing coach.
The Borough also welcome back former Rochester forward Sean Williams who bagged 90 goals for Eaglehawk in the 2014-2015 seasons.
The Bloods expect big things of key forward Kaiden Antonowicz who played in the 2014 GVFL premiership side with Childs at the Shepparton Swans.
New coaches will be in charge at Dower Park when Kangaroo Flat take on Golden Square.
Bernie Haberman takes over at the Square who have lost half a grand final side with the key losses gun midfielder Simon Rosa, star full-back Dale Young and 2016 Vic Country centre half-back Chris Ryan.
But the Bulldogs have always been excellent recruiters with one addition the GVFL’s 2010 Rising Star Blake Coyle.
The Roos have appointed dual coaches in Corey Greer (playing) and Shawn Filo. Key newbies include Jonathan Lanyon from the North Ballarat Roosters and former Bendigo Pioneers skipper Liam Collins.
One big loss for the Green and Whites will be bullocking forward Cameron Rinaldi who has re-joined his former club Maryborough.
The two southern-most clubs in Kyneton and Gisborne play their big rivalry Good Friday match at the Tigers Showgrounds.
Twice knocked out of the BFNL finals in the 2015 and 2016 elimination finals coach Luke Beattie is hopeful the Kyneton side can rise higher up the ladder.
Jordan Mangan rejoins the Tigers from a season with the basketballing Bendigo Braves while 2014 BFNL Rising Star winner Bill Mahony is now on the Kyneton list.
Brad Spear is in his second year as Gisborne’s coach with the league’s biggest signing — 2008 Hawthorn premiership winger Clinton Young -– on the Bulldogs’ list.
Andre Headberry who played for Gisborne in the 2012 grand final has re-joined the Dogs.
At the Camp Reserve Castlemaine will host last year’s wooden spooners Maryborough in a Good Friday night match.
The Maine has installed BFNL legend Derrick Filo as coach — he captained the Magpies to the 1992 flag — and will be hoping to improve on their 2016 record of seven wins.
Filo will relish the experience of 2011 Michelsen medallist Wayne Schultz along with midfielder Simon Seddon, who famously booted 10 second half goals for Labrador in the 2014 QAFL grand final.
Any win for Maryborough will create headlines. The Princes Park Pies have not won a senior game since 2014.
After booting 128 goals in three seasons with Kangaroo Flat Rinaldi is back to help second year coach Shane Skontra.
William Short also returns to help with the ruckwork while mid Mitch Kennedy is also a returning Magpie.
Round one, Good Friday: South Bendigo v Eaglehawk, Kyneton v Gisborne, Kangaroo Flat v Golden Square, Castlemaine v Maryborough (night).
Easter Saturday: Strathfieldsaye v Sandhurst, 2.20pm.
Top Five prediction: Sandhurst, Eaglehawk, Strathfieldsaye, Kyneton, Golden Square.
Grand final: Sandhurst v Eaglehawk. Premiers: Sandhurst. Wooden spoon: Maryborough.
Michelsen medal: Kallen Geary (Strathfiedsaye). Ron Best goalkicking medal: Matt Gretgrix (Eaglehawk).