The Albury Wodonga Saints outside Marvel Stadium on a game day this season. (Photo: Albury Wodonga Saints)

A group of regional Saints fans have been named the best AFL supporters in Australia.

Albury Wodonga Saints, one of St Kilda's and the AFL's oldest and most devoted supporter groups, beat stiff competition to be named supporter group of the year in the recent 2022 AFL Fans Association awards.

Established by a small group of passionate, local supporters in 1996 as the Twin City Saints, Albury Wodonga Saints has grown significant support in north-eastern Victoria to include 110 members from Euroa to Wagga.

An important element of the group is to create regular and sustained connections with fellow AFL fans, building bonds that stretch beyond football.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, members were divided due to border closures soon after local bushfires, but as soon as it could, the group re-established connections and engagement with St Kilda and each other, holding monthly dinners that have even been attended by some of the Saints' 1966 premiership stars.

The group works tirelessly to promote AFL and St Kilda locally and enables supporters to feel a sense of belonging to their team. It supports club campaigns, including the Danny Frawley Centre, holding fundraising raffles and competitions. Members even sold hay and calves to raise funds for the club.

Many memorable bus trips down the Hume Highway have taken supporters and members to Marvel Stadium, enabling rural and regional supporters to access live football and visit facilities such as RSEA Park and the Danny Frawley Centre. During the pandemic, the group organised group seating so those unfamiliar with digital tickets did not have to worry.

Former CEO Matt Finnis with the Albury Wodonga Saints at the Danny Frawley Centre this year. (Photo: Albury Wodonga Saints)

Each year, St Kilda hosts the Albury Wodonga Saints, and its members are part of the banner and guard of honour. Travelling together also enables members to support those who need assistance with their mobility.

“We're a great group,” Albury Wodonga Saints president Doug Furze said.

"We don’t get to many games, but we're pretty passionate about our footy. That’s why we see the bus as so important, because there’s nothing like a live game. When we go to games, we can all look out for each other and enjoy the game together.”

Albury Wodonga Saints' award marks the first of its kind for a St Kilda supporter group since the award was introduced in 2015.

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