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THE MELBOURNE Football Club is proud to announce a new community partnership with the South Metro Junior Football League (SMJFL).

The partnership will focus on the development of young female footballers within the league, as well as supporting coaches, participants and league staff throughout the 2017 season and beyond.

The SMJFL had over 700 female participants in 2016, with a total of 900 junior female footballers projected for 2017.

Women’s Football Operations Manager Debbie Lee said the partnership was a reflection of the Melbourne Football Club’s ongoing commitment to women’s football.

“We see this partnership as a really important way to connect with female footballers, particularly with our AFLW season beginning on Sunday, February 5,” she said.

“The SMJFL will be a key talent pool for female footballers in the future and we hope that some of these girls will pull on a Melbourne guernsey in the years to come.”

SMJFL CEO Sarah Loh said the league was thrilled to formalise its relationship with the Melbourne Football Club and help develop talent in the region.

“The SMJFL are excited to officially partner with the Melbourne Football Club and their strong AFL Women’s program, encouraging girls to dream bigger in 2017,” she said.

“We are looking forward to seeing the on-field results from the new-look team and also showing the girls playing junior football that there is now a strong pathway in place. Our young players now have role models to look up to and can hopefully see themselves playing football for years to come.

“The Melbourne Football Club has a been a trailblazer in the female football space and SMJFL is expecting large growth in its number of girls’ teams in 2017. The league sees a natural alignment between Melbourne and the SMJFL, as both have a passion to see girls on the field, giving it their all, and receiving the support that all participants deserve.”