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THERE has never been a more exciting time to be a Fraser Coast football fan.
The region's most popular sport has already experienced a huge 12 months.
Football Wide Bay underwent one of the biggest governance reforms in its history as it became Football Queensland Wide Bay, the pathway from local football to the A-League and Socceroos became more pronounced with the formation of the Wide Bay Buccaneers in the Football Queensland Premier League, and more players than ever before played the World Game.
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The most exciting and game-changing deal in Wide Bay football history was inked in August when FQWB signed the first co-operative agreement with A-League club Brisbane Roar, and already our stars of tomorrow have faced off against junior football players regarded as some of the best.
In the seniors, Doon Villa's success in the FFA Cup could not be understated.
The Maryborough club conquered the Wide Bay zone, beat the Buccaneers then hosted National Premier Leagues Queensland club Sunshine Coast Fire at Villa Park, pushing the visitors to the brink before bowing out of the knock-out competition.
It is only going to get bigger next year.
The first stage of the Fraser Coast Sports Precinct is nearing completion, and football is on track to play its first fixtures at the region's newest venue by February.
New fields, specially designed and built for football, will allow junior stars the opportunity to play and develop on the best possible surface, while also providing yet another facility for local games.
FQWB president Stuart Taylor said more than 4000 people played the World Games in 63 community football competitions across the Wide Bay zone (from Bundaberg to Gympie, including Maryborough and Hervey Bay) in a game-changing 2018.
One of the biggest changes has been in female youth football.
Taylor and FQWB general manager Peter Guest independently spoke of the Fraser Coast Youth Girls' competition success and were excited about how it would evolve in future.
"There was a lot of positive stuff coming through with girls football. We had the start of a new competition with youth girls as a priority, and we're looking to expand that into Bundaberg," Guest said.
That competition featured teams from Doon Villa, Sunbury, United Warriors and eventual champions Bayside Strikers comprised of girls aged 11 to 14.
A hugely popular format which grew from the Bend It Like Becky program started by former Matildas goalkeeper Belinda Kitching and Sarah Walker, both of whom were involved at United Warriors before they moved to Ipswich, the competition's success could lead to an even bigger competition next year featuring more teams or age groups.
Every club will try to replicate the growth seen in junior female football across the board, and the Chronicle plans to outline how each club will approach 2019 over the next six weeks.
The Chronicle will publish two club profiles per week from Tuesday December 11, covering all five Maryborough teams, four Hervey Bay clubs and the Wide Bay Buccaneers.
Published every Tuesday and Thursday, except the week of Christmas (December 25 and 27), the series will alternate between clubs based at the Heritage City and Hervey Bay, and provide a look back at their biggest moments from 2018 and how they will approach the new year.
Fraser Coast clubs are already well advanced in their plans.
Doon Villa has flagged plans for one of the most exciting years in the Magpies' history.
In addition to the appointment of former state league coach Steve Bates as senior men's coach, Doon Villa is currently working to produce a junior football program that will be the envy of clubs across regional Queensland, let alone the Wide bay.
"It was a good year for us," Doon Villa president Adam Hedberg said.
"Getting through the FFA Cup and hosting the Fire, we were second on the ladder in Premier League and we've increased our facilities with new lights and maintenance that now allows us to operate two fields."
At Kawungan Sandy Straits Jets, the club with one of the biggest junior memberships has already begun its drive to ensure "Hervey Bay is Red" in 2019.
Jets president Josh Hobbs said the junior divisions was where the club excelled.
"Having a huge representation in finals was big for us, but we fielded at least one team in every age group," Hobbs said.
"Despite some of the challenges we faced, including the introduction of the Buccaneers, we saw our membership grow."
Fraser Flames' on-field success was extraordinary.
The club dominated two junior age groups - the under-14s were undefeated on its way to the premiership, and the under-12s scored 130 goals - then secured the ladies Division 2 title in a long, dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Returning football co-ordinator Adrian Elmes said the Flames' focus would remain similar next year, though an extra push would be made in the youngest age groups.
Outgoing Tinana president Trevor Parry echoed that intention in the aftermath of the club's 50th anniversary.
"We are all about junior development," he said.
"We take pride in getting kids involved in junior sport and getting them on the field."
You can view all stories about Fraser Coast football on the Fraser Coast Chronicle website with your subscription.
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