St Kilda Football Club has elevated its relationship with the South Metro Junior Football League to become a Major Community Partner.

The SMJFL is the largest independent junior sporting organisation in Australia, with over 11,300 participants taking to the field in 2019.

The collaboration between the Saints and the SMJFL is the first AFL-to-community partnership sharing the same region, highlighting St Kilda’s commitment to nurture, promote and grow Australian Rules Football in Victoria’s south.

CEO Matt Finnis said the club was proud to further strengthen its partnership with the SMJFL.

“St Kilda Football Club has for a long time been passionate about our community and promoting inclusion,” Finnis said.

“Our Major Community Partnership with the SMJFL is a fantastic way to help get more people involved in the game, and the work the SMJFL has done and continues to do has been extraordinary.

We’re proud to continue to play a major role in growing Australia’s game in Melbourne’s south, and this partnership will greatly help us in inspiring the next generation for years to come.

- Matt Finnis

And despite the unfortunate cancellation of all SMJFL competitions in 2020, Finnis remains excited for the future.

“Our thoughts are with the SMJFL, their players, coaches, umpires and club administrators as they continue to engage their communities in a year where junior competitions have sadly been cancelled,” he said.

“So much of the focus around COVID-19 from an AFL perspective has been on the 18 professional clubs, but I think a lot of people forget about how significantly this has impacted all our grassroots competitions, which are so important to the fabric of our game.”

St Kilda will collaborate on a number of projects with the SMJFL, including the Next Generation Academy and Interleague programs and AFLW Player Ambassador programs to clubs.

Several Saints, including Max King, Ryan Byrnes, Olivia Vesely and Selena Karlson began their playing and/or umpiring careers within SMJFL ranks.

Over 50,000 parents and volunteers across the League have been vital in creating the successful competition across its 64 divisions.

The SMJFL has also been a frontrunner in health and well-being through its Healthy Canteens Initiative, driving positive nutritious habits and changing the face of junior club canteens.

Through the newly launched St Kilda Community Fund, the SMJFL is aiming to either reduce or eliminate the cost of playing football or operating clubs, enabling all children in the South metro region to live a fit and healthy lifestyle. 

SMJFL CEO Sarah Loh said she was thrilled to deepen the League’s connection with St Kilda.

“We’re thrilled to be working alongside St Kilda Football Club in this truly collaborative community partnership,” Loh said.

The work the club has done for such a long time has been so important, especially at a grassroots level across multiple fronts.

- Sarah Loh

“With St Kilda’s involvement, we’re excited to work closely together on a number of projects which will help grow the game and encourage boys and girls of all ages to participate in the game we all love.”