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The South Metro Junior Football League (SMJFL) celebrated its upcoming 2021 season at the annual Season Launch on Sunday, held at VAFA HQ.

The breakfast, presented by Options Consulting Group and Property Investment Specialists OpenCorp, was attended by Club Presidents, corporate partners and special guests.

SMJFL Chief Executive Officer Sarah Loh and Chairman Richard Bowen both addressed the event’s attendees to thank and recognise their contributions to kids’ participation in the South East region.

Ms Loh emphasised navigating the challenges of 2020 was an immense team effort.

“After the challenges we faced in 2020 with COVID-19, from lockdowns, to the uncertainty of a season, to communicating via endless zoom meetings, being creative with our communications and supporting our clubs through the challenges, we managed to get through them together,” said Ms Loh.

“This was only made possible with the support of our very generous sponsors and partners. It was their financial support that ensured we didn’t have to charge any fees last year and still managed to run our Football 4 Fun program for the kids in November.”

SMJFL Chief Executive Officer Sarah Loh launches the SMJFL’s 2021 season

SMJFL Chairman Richard Bowen addresses the league’s Presidents, partners and special guests

The morning also featured a number of additional guest speakers, including Robert Connor Dawes (RCD) Foundation Founder Liz Dawes, who spoke about the importance of the foundation’s continued relationship with the league.

“We are proud to have the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation your charity partner again this year, kicking goals for young people with brain cancer,” said Mrs Dawes.

Robert Connor Dawes Foundation Founder Liz Dawes

A number of awards from 2020 were also presented, including the Monash University Leader of the Year (Tommy Haydon, Prahran JFC), the Storage King Volunteer of the Year (Steve Foulds, East Malvern JFC) and the OpenCorp Club Administrator of the Year (Kellie Lea, Dingley JFC accepted by Dingley JFC President Luke Hardeman).

Podcasting duo Cameron Watts and Ian Leach, as seen in the league’s From the Bench series which premiered during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, returned to host a panel set to the theme of ‘Coming out of COVID’.

The star-studded panel comprised of St Kilda VWFL Vice-Captain Nathan Wilburn, Tackle Your Feelings Program Manager Nick Walsh, St Kilda AFLW Coach Peta Searle, Behavioural Epidemiologist and sport and recreation participation researcher Rochelle Eime and Head of AFL Victoria Brad Scott.

The panel took the opportunity to discuss the biggest challenges they faced throughout 2020, the challenges posing barriers to football participation and the importance of addressing mental health in a sports environment.

The panel discusses their challenges throughout and emerging from COVID

Thank you to all those who attended, and to the event’s sponsors Options Consulting Group and Property Investment Specialists OpenCorp.