The Bendigo Pioneers women’s and men’s teams compete in the top tier Under 18 Australian Rules Football competition, the Coates Talent League. As part of a formal partnership, La Trobe University is the official naming rights partner of the Pioneers and both the men’s and women’s teams utilise the sport and exercise science facilities based on the Bendigo campus.
The partnership between La Trobe and the Bendigo Pioneers also enables La Trobe students to gain professional experience and exposure to various elements of the sports industry, which in turn positions them as job ready graduates whilst contributing to the operations of the Bendigo Pioneers Football Club.
A key component of the partnership is the awarding of the annual Bendigo Pioneers Bursary, which is funded by La Trobe’s Bendigo Campus. Three $1000 one-off bursaries are awarded each year to La Trobe students who are involved or associated with the Bendigo Pioneers exhibiting academic merit.
In 2023, Pioneers Women’s team player Keely Fullerton, squad member Thomas Dillon and support staff member Milly Shanahan have all been awarded the Bendigo Pioneers Bursary.
Keely Fullerton (Bachelor of Science) has played in the Pioneers’ Under 18/19 Women’s team over the past three seasons. Keely’s association with the Bendigo Pioneers has given her a chance to step out of her comfort zone and learn new skills and practice fundamentals. The Pioneers community, family, coaches and team-mates have helped Keely along the way guiding her to try new things differently and providing tools to improve her game.
“This has been able to give me a bunch of friends outside of the Pioneers as well and has given me the opportunity to travel all around Victoria and even travel to Tasmania to play high level footy,” Keely said.
Physiotherapy has always been a career aspiration of Milly Shanahan’s (Bachelor of Physiotherapy - Honours) with a keen interest in optimal physical activity in sport and recovering from injuries to reach peak performance. Millie has a passion for health and maintaining a high level of fitness. Milly’s brother plays for the Bendigo Pioneers, which has provided her with great insights about the requirements of athletes and the processes they undertake to perform optimally sparking her interest in the field of physiotherapy. Millie volunteers with the Bendigo Pioneers supporting the physio team and the broader game day team where required.
The final bursary recipient, Thomas Dillon (Bachelor of Physiotherapy - Honours), chose to study physiotherapy because he has an interest in the human body and how it functions in sports and other activities. Thomas’ aim is to become a physiotherapist specialising in the sports industry and to give back to regional communities by providing support and rehabilitation to athletes who may not have access to a physio.
“I am so appreciative that I could be part of the Pios program,” Thomas said.
“The professional advice and guidance from Pios staff has helped me so much with my injury and has set me up for a return to footy in 2023 and beyond, and the scholarship I received is a great help with my physiotherapy studies at La Trobe Uni Bendigo.”
In addition to the Bendigo Pioneers Bursary, there are a number of other examples of collaboration between La Trobe and the Pioneers that provides La Trobe students with the opportunity to practice skills learned in the classroom.
Cooper McLean, the Pioneers’ High Performance Coach and La Trobe Alumnus, has two talented students in Maddy Curran and Lachie Wright who are studying Exercise Science working closely with him to gain invaluable experience working with both the Men’s and Women’s teams.
Dan Hamilton, the Pioneers’ Head Physiotherapist and a La Trobe Alumnus, is well supported on game day and at trainings by Lara Judd, Marcus Hamilton and Milly Shanahan all studying Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) at Bendigo.
Jonty Perry, a third year Bachelor of Media and Communications student (majoring in Sports Journalism) at the Melbourne campus, is currently undertaking a media project with the Bendigo Pioneers for La Trobe Live TV.
Finally, Jeremy Rodi - a former La Trobe University Bendigo Pioneers Bursary scholarship recipient - is in his final year of a Bachelor of Education at the Bendigo campus. The skills Jeremy has gained from his course and working in schools, combined with his football prowess and time with the Pioneers as a player, made him a perfect candidate as an assistant coach with the Under 18 Men’s team.
For more information on the Bendigo Pioneers partnership and La Trobe University’s other partnerships in the sports industry, visit the La Trobe Sport website.