The VFL will host Good Friday football in 2014, with Essendon drawn to play former affiliate Bendigo Gold at Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo on April 18.
After several false starts, Bendigo has been granted the opportunity to host Good Friday night football by the local council and AFL Victoria to help increase its exposure as it attempts to remain viable in the competition.
The season will be make or break for the Gold after only convincing AFL Victoria at the end of last season that it will continue to see out its remaining year of its licence. Despite the fund-raising venture late in the year, there still remains doubt surrounding the viability of Bendigo, along with Coburg, which reverts back to its old name, the Lions, after splitting from Richmond. Coburg, too, faces an uphill battle to remain viable off the field. VFL footy will also be exposed in Colac, Echuca, Morwell and Swan Hill.
"It is pleasing that clubs are looking to build relationships with regional areas to help promote the game, and showcase our state league competition to a wider audience," AFL Victoria talent manager John Hook said. Richmond's new stand-alone team will be the most intriguing, given the experienced talent it has snared over the off-season.
Ex-Melbourne livewire Aaron Davey, former Saint Andrew McQualter, former Carlton rookie and WAFL veteran Ross Young, who has been named captain, and experienced VFL talent Nathan Batsanis and James Wall have all signed at the Tigers.
Former Hawk ruckman Max Bailey, a development coach at Richmond, could also play a few matches. Williamstown, which has split from the Western Bulldogs, is another team to watch. They have former Hawks premiership star Andy Collins at the helm, and it has snared top-line players Mitch Banner, Kane Lambert, Scott Clouston, Adam Marcon, Brad Mangan, Ryan Ferguson, Sean Tighe and David Fahey. Reigning premier Box Hill will travel to take on Geelong in a blockbuster night match at Simonds Stadium in round three.
And perhaps in a sign of a slight shift towards an AFL reserves competition, Richmond will play seven VFL matches at Punt Road Oval prior to their AFL team playing on the same day. Footscray, the Bulldogs new stand-alone team, will play three matches at Whitten Oval prior to its AFL clashes on the same day.