The cloudy Melbourne skies parted on Sunday for the moment the kids of the SMJFL have eagerly awaited for more than 130 days – to return to the footy field.
The SMJFL has gone fixture-less for 435 days, dating back to the last round of finals in 2019.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused the 2020 season to be suspended once in March, and a second time in July, just days before it was expected to commence.
But nothing would stop the kids of the SMJFL this weekend as they donned their club colours with their teammates for the Monash University ‘Football 4 Fun’ program once more.
For others it was their first footy experience, with new players across the league getting their first taste of junior football.
Throughout the four-week program, the league will hold 460 games total for over 2,500 participating players.
The Football 4 Fun launch was full of special surprises, with now-St Kilda superstar Jack Higgins making an appearance at Linton Street Reserve.
Higgins, who requested a trade from Richmond to St Kilda during the trade period, is a former-SMJFL player having previously played for Ormond JFC and East Malvern JFC.
Higgins spoke fondly of his time playing junior football.
“I’ve got heaps of memories in the SMJFL. I remember playing a few games for Ormond and also winning a few flags for East Malvern against Beaumaris.”
Higgins said it was great to see the Football 4 Fun program become available to the kids of the league.
“It looks awesome. Seeing all the young boys have a kick of the footy after such a long time in lockdown is pretty cool seeing them out there.”
St Kilda AFLW coach and SMJFL ambassador Peta Searle was also in attendance and praised the SMJFL’s efforts in launching the program.
“Its a fantastic idea to have footy at this time of the year. In COVID, it was sad being at home watching kids ‘cooped up’ and not being able to enjoy physical activity with their peers.”
“To get out and run around with a smile on their face is engaging positively with each other in a team sense is so important.”
For many players, the program offered an opportunity to reconnect with their friends and teammates.
Olive, who has played with Hampton Rovers JFC for three years, said she enjoyed working together with her friends once more.
“I’ve missed having fun with my friends and collaborating as a team.”
The day was also made special by special displays around the grounds courtesy of SMJFL partners.
Sign Fairy Melbourne Bayside created a ‘Welcome Back’ display for Linton Street, while National Sporting Lines was assisted by Logos On Grass to adorn the ground with the SMJFL logo, the official ‘Football 4 Fun’ logo and the Monash University logo.
National Sporting Lines and Logos on Grass set the scene for game day
Thank you to everyone who joined the SMJFL for Football 4 Fun over the weekend, including all of the players, partners, volunteers and special guests.
Thank you to the program’s Major Sponsor Monash University for making the program possible.
We look forward to sharing more news from the next three weeks of the program.
If you have any photos from around Football 4 Fun, please send them in to email@example.com. For any additional queries, please contact your local club.