St Kilda’s blind team was given a surprise during its preparations for the VBFL Grand Final, with Guide Dogs Victoria visiting with some special guests.

Puppies in training came down to RSEA Park to meet members of the Saints’ VBFL side to celebrate a successful first season of the partnership, with hopes the team can cap off the year with its second consecutive premiership on Saturday.

The dogs got to tour the St Kilda facilities and interact with staff members, who were allowed to pat and cuddle them before they begin their official training as guide dogs.

Kadek Artayana, a member of the VBFL side, said the partnership had been an important one to continue growing the sport of blind football.

“It has been great to have Guide Dogs Victoria on board and spread the word of blind footy, letting people know that blind AFL is something that they can get involved in,” Kadek said.

“It’s important to have sports such as these, because for people like me, I love AFL so to have the chance to play footy, it means a lot to be able to play the sport we love.”

Kadek with his guide dog, Lavinia, and another of the GDV puppies. Photo: Lucy Edwards.

The puppies also got to meet and interact with Kadek’s guide dog, Lavinia, who he has owned since 2020.

“Lavinia has completely changed my life,” he said.

“She guides me going to places, going to the shops, going to the gym. I don’t have to rely on other people, I’m able to do things for myself.”

With the Saints looking to secure back-to-back flags, Guide Dogs Victoria GM of Client and Vision Services, Jaqui Bond, said the first year of the partnership was successful as they take the first steps in the growth of blind footy.

“The partnership has also shown us the impact that teams like this have on young children,” she said.

“The kids come to the games, cheer on their heroes, and experience a sport and team environment. The partnership and the sport really is so impactful in so many ways.

“Inclusion and participation is what we are all aiming for. If Guide Dogs can play a small part in supporting people to partake in a team sport, we have taken a step towards supporting people to live a life without limits.”

The VBFL Grand Final will take place this Saturday with the first bounce at 12pm from Action Indoor Sports Stadium in Tullamarine.