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After forging the SMJFL Interleague/St. Kilda Next Generation Academy pathway in 2018, this years AFL and AFLW drafts were the first to feature the pioneering boys and girls from the program’s inaugural class.

Across the AFL National, Pre-Season and Rookie drafts as well as the AFLW draft, 10 of the original SMJFL Interleague – NGA kids were selected by eight different AFL clubs in four different states.

After years of determination and hard work, not to mention the difficulties faced over the past two years due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, the league is proud of not only those selected in this year’s draft, but all those who have been on the journey since 2018.

The SMJFL Interleague/St. Kilda NGA was created to identify and develop young talent as the sole pathway for emerging footballers aged 11-15, across the SMJFL catchment region. Featuring AFL expertise integrating with the already established interleague program, this partnership aims to provide the highest level of coaching to young players not just on their footballing journeys, but on their own personal development.

The partnership between the SMJFL and St. Kilda Football Club has always been a strong, committed, and respectful relationship. Building on these core principals has allowed both parties to achieve its goal in facilitating the best possible program for our young talented footballers.

“Our club is proud to have played a role with the identification and development of these players that have now realised their AFL dreams,” said St. Kilda’s Community Football Pathways and Partnerships Manger Jack Henty.

“The partnership and collaboration on the Academy/Interleague program has evolved and adapted since 2018, making it an industry leading pathway platform across the AFL competitions”.

“It’s wonderful, to create something that allows young people to succeed it is what the SMJFL is all about,” added SMJFL CEO Sarah Loh.

“Having 10 players drafted across both the men’s and women’s competitions is a testament to our pathway.”

This talent pathway is a true collaborative effort from those involved at every level of football these young people experience. From their original member clubs identifying and fostering young footballers right up to the Sandringham Dragons, who expose and develop them through the AFL NAB League to prepare them for senior level football.

“We will always encourage players to play at the highest level they possibly can,” said Sandringham Dragons Talent Manager Mark Wheeler.

“This pathway is another opportunity for young footballers to achieve this.”

Special congratulations go to former East Malvern Knights player Charlie Rowbottom on being the number one overall draft pick in the 2021 AFLW Draft. An exceptional effort from another young talented SMJFL footballer who we will enjoy watching for many years to come.

The league would also like to mention and congratulate Mitchito Owens, Marcus Windhager and Jack Peris who all made their way onto St. Kilda’s men’s list.

Through the NGA programs focus on diversifying the AFL and community football landscape through identifying and supporting young footballers from Indigenous and multicultural backgrounds, St. Kilda had priority access to all three draftees, further strengthening the pathway and partnership between the SMJFL and St. Kilda Football Club.