After four years of development, the fruits of St Kilda’s PURA Next Generation Academy (NGA) are starting to bloom.

Four of the Saints’ six draftees from this year – Mitch Owens, Marcus Windhager, Jack Peris and Josiah Kyle – are inaugural graduates of the program, having each gained valuable insight into what it takes to become professional footballers.

The PURA NGA was established in 2017 with the aim of harnessing talent of multicultural and Indigenous youth across the Melbourne’s southern region.  

Windhager, Peris and Kyle all come from respective Indigenous backgrounds, while Owens shares Japanese heritage through his mother’s side. All four first joined the academy in 2019.

Nick Dal Santo, head coach of the PURA Next Generation Academy, said the program aims to provide a pathway that allows young footballers to spend time in an elite football environment.

“For those in our program, and for those in the future, it actually gives you a pathway,” Dal Santo told

“Before the NGA program was established, the chance for up-and-coming talent to have exposure to elite-level training sessions and facilities were rare.

Through the support of great partners like PURA, these academies create special opportunities for these players to, hopefully, fulfil their dream of playing AFL.

- Nick Dal Santo

“It’s been great watching Mitch, Marcus, Jack and Josiah grow over the past few years and I look forward to watching them as they continue to progress.”

Owens, who was the first of the four NGA prospects taken by St Kilda, said the program had been important to his development as a footballer.

“Being a part of the NGA helped so much,” Owens said.

“To be at the club once or twice a week with Dal and Trent Dennis-Lane has been awesome. Being around the environment, the standards and what training is like was eye-opening.

“Learning what it is like to an AFL player has been one of the main things I took out of the program. I didn’t know what to eat, I didn’t know certain exercises I should do, I wasn’t 100 per cent on the small things like technique and that.

“Having access to physios, strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, it helped a lot.”