The Murray Bushrangers girls started their 2019 NAB League season with heavy a loss to a polished Northern Knights outfit.
Four national academy players featured in the Knights side and their class prevailed, running away with an 11.12 (78) to 0.2 (2) victory at Cragieburn's RAMS Arena on Saturday.
Without captain Millie Brown and the late withdrawal of Emilee McPherson, the Bushrangers went into the game with 11 debutants, including five 15-year-old players promoted from the futures squad.
The Knights set up a 19-point lead at the first break and remained in complete control.
East Wagga export Ally Morphett was the Bushrangers' best, moving into the ruck in the second half where she took advantage of the new ruling - taking possession to move the ball forward and provide a more even contest around the stoppages.
Another East Wagga product Mindy Quade was moved to fullback where she showed class beyond her years, while Griffith's Abby Favell, Alpine Lions' Kristy Whitehead, Thurgoona's Mikaela Trethowan and Lavington star Olivia Barber also impressed throughout the day.
Bushrangers' female talent coordinator Briana Coassar believes Northern Knights will most likely be the benchmark of the competition this season.
"It was always going to be a tough encounter, but we were really pleased with the effort our girls put in and they fought to the very end," Cossar said.
"We're probably just a little bit light on with top-age players.
"The other thing with the metro clubs is they get to see their players three times a week, whereas we only see our players twice a week with the travel commitments.
"It makes it a little bit difficult, but in saying that the metro clubs are well established too.
"The girls local football here has only been going three years, but there's been girls footy in Melbourne for six or seven years.
"The talent pool is a bit thinner here at the moment, but with the development of the girls over the pre-season, especially our futures, there's exciting times ahead."
The Bushrangers have the week off with NAB League testing taking place at Maribyrnong Secondary College next Saturday.
They return to the park for their first home game at Yarrawonga's J.C. Lowe Oval, on Sunday, March 17, against Western Jets.
- Receive our daily newsletter straight to your inbox each morning from The Border Mail. Sign up here