Last Monday, the SMJFL’s new General Manager, Sarah Loh, officially took office.
A talented sportswoman across several sporting codes, Sarah has spent many years working within the sport and recreation industry and brings to the role a valuable skill set that will no doubt help drive the league forward.
SMJFL Media Coordinator Will Hunter caught up with Sarah to discuss her background, her plans for the league and her passion for football.
Will Hunter: You’ve had a lengthy involvement in sport as a player and administrator, but let’s start at the beginning. I understand you played a bit of footy in your younger years?
Sarah Loh: Yes, I started learning how to play football at the age of seven as I had two older brothers who were quite passionate about the game. During my time there weren’t the opportunities for girls to play football as there is nowadays. At the age of 13 I was fortunate enough to be part of one of the first round robin tournaments held over a day for school girls which was in the south east region. I was proud to captain and co-coach the team for four years and was fortunate enough to win some of the tournaments. From there I played senior women’s football for the St Kilda Sharks out at Peanut Farm for a season.
WH: Did you play any other sports growing up?
SL: I played several sports at a high level including Pennant Reserve cricket for Monash University as an all-rounder specialising as a fast bowler in the early ‘80s. In my late teens I played ten pin bowling and was a member of the Victoria development squad. My specialty sport was tennis where I played until my early 20’s.
WH: You’ve obviously got a lot of passion for footy, and you’re a Saints fan in particular?
SL: Yes, my passion for the game especially at grass roots was evident from a young age. I have been a passionate Saints fan since I was seven and remember begging my father to take me to every home game at Moorabbin which was in the mid 70’s. I was fortunate to grow up 500m down the road from then VFL Park at Waverley where I would attend every Saints match there too. I’m eagerly waiting for my Saints to get their next premiership!
WH: Give us a bit of a rundown of your professional background?
SL: I started working in the sport and recreation industry straight out of high school. I managed my first health and fitness centre at 18 and have never looked back. I have managed over 15 leisure facilities throughout Victoria over my 28-year career in the industry. I have also worked for five local Government Councils (two metro and three regional) in the sport and recreation department developing active participation in sport, improving sporting infrastructure and club development. During my time at Councils I have been fortunate to meet so many volunteers of sporting clubs to help develop grassroots sports. I have also been integral in securing significant funding to ensure that sporting infrastructure upgrades occur on ageing assets or for new venues. In my most recent appointments I was the Executive Officer for two state sporting organisations, being Ice Hockey Victoria and Dragon Boat Victoria.
WH: You are about to complete your first week at SMJFL HQ. What are your initial observations about the league, the office and the staff?
SL: The office is a great set up housing SMJFL, the SFNL and AFL Victoria, it’s quite the football hub for the region. All the staff and Board have been extremely welcoming and the passion from everyone is obvious from the outset. I have been fortunate enough to catch some games and meet some of the clubs already and observed my first Lightning Carnival at Highett Reserve two weekends ago and a preliminary final on the weekend at Port Melbourne. It was fantastic to see the kids and equally the families, volunteers and officials have so much fun and enjoy this great sport.
WH: Once you properly put your feet under the desk, what are the plans for the SMJFL moving forward?
SL: It’s a great time to start with SMJFL as the finals approach us over the next two weekends, along with a string of presentation nights. There will be time for the Board and my staff to reflect and review the season prior to planning for the 2017 season after the finals. As part of SMJFL’s Strategic Plan, I intend to build on the three key pillars, being Governance, Football and Stakeholders & Communication. There are some exciting times in the coming years, in particular with the introduction of the AFL’s women’s league in 2017 already having an impact on our league which I would like to see grow even more. I look forward to meeting all the clubs, officials, volunteers and, of course, the kids.
WH: Thanks for your time Sarah, and good luck!