Posted in Featured News , Front Page News

As the opening round of the 2016 South Metro Junior Football League season looms, some positive news has emerged surrounding the growth of football participation in the Inner Southern Region, particularly at junior level.

Numbers of Auskick participants are headed towards all-time record levels in 2016, with registrations up 17% on this time last year. More importantly, there has been a whopping 56% increase in girls’ registrations.

Only six Auskick centres in the Inner Southern Region ran groups exclusively for girls last year. Now half of the region’s 31 centres have girls-only components, which further legitimises football as a genuine sporting option for under-age girls.

In the SMJFL the figures are similarly positive. Total teams will number 410 across 56 divisions in 2016, up on the 399 registered teams last season. Additionally, the 35 registered girls’ sides represents a marked increase on the 23 that competed in 2015.

The League will also field Under 9 and Youth Girls (Under 18) competitions for the very first time this year on the back of increased female participation in junior football. Eight teams will figure in the highly-competitive Youth Girls competition, with many of these players looking to progress their football careers in higher competitions beyond this season.

Naturally, with increased participation comes a broadened talent pool, so the inaugural Youth Girls competition is shaping to be of a very high standard.

Further, the increase in Auskick registrations this year has the potential to further strengthen the SMJFL competition in the coming seasons as these young Auskickers progress through to junior football ranks with their SMJFL-affiliated clubs.

SMJFL General Manager Jake McCauley said it was terrific to Australia’s indigenous sporting code flourishing in the region, and praised the efforts of volunteers in facilitating this growth.

“The SMJFL is delighted to again grow participation in 2016. Pleasingly, Australian Rules football is healthy at all levels within our region, with Auskick participation well up on last year as well,” Mr McCauley said

“The continued growth of the league couldn’t be achieved without the tireless efforts of the 26 clubs, so we thank the 4,000+ club volunteers for their ongoing efforts.”

The SMJFL season gets underway tonight at Jack Barker Oval, with Cheltenham Panthers taking on East Sandringham in a blockbuster Under 14 clash under Friday night lights. The match will also double as a fund-raiser for former Zebra Will Murray.

The remaining Round 1 matches will be played on Sunday.