Bailey Henderson (right) is set for a big year. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

AN influx of height and some returning guns has the Bendigo Pioneers primed for their start to the TAC Cup season.

As they hit the training track on Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s clash with Ballarat, the Pioneers looked noticeably taller than recent years.

Coach Rick Coburn confirmed that theory, with the extra height to give him the flexibility to use the likes of Will Holt, Nathan McHugh and Bailey Henderson in a variety of roles.

The Pioneers average player height is 184 centimetres, bang on the competition average and the highest figure the club has had in several years.

Midfielder Jye Caldwell returns for the Pioneers and is a top draft hope, while Bendigo has picked up Noah Wheeler from Greater Western Victoria Rebels.

Bailey Henderson returns as a 19-year-old after enjoying a strong top-age year, and another season of development will see him eyed off by AFL clubs.

Jacob Atley is another who will attract the attention of suitors from the top level, the brother of former captain Joe and North Melbourne player Shaun expected to impress.

The Rebels are a strong outfit with Tom Berry and Matt Lloyd expected to be high in draft calculations.

However the Pioneers coaching staff, including additions Dean Sheldrick and Bendigo Thunder premiership coach Cherie O’Neill, believe their side has shown more than enough in the preseason to be competitive on Saturday.

“We’re going into the year knowing we’re going to be developing and hopefully playing our best footy toward the end of the year,” coach Rick Coburn said.

Bendigo plays Ballarat at Mars Stadium on Saturday at 2pm. The team’s first home game is on April 7 against Gippsland Power at 10am.

– Joel Peterson