The St Kilda Football Club (St Kilda FC)’s Next Generation Academy (NGA) program is heating up, with clubs eager to learn the final squad selections in the days to come.
The South Metro Junior Football League (SMJFL) and St Kilda FC have collaborated on the program since 2018, working together to provide a single development and talent pathway for budding players in the SMJFL region.
The NGA program was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with the academy ceasing training in March prior to final selections being made.
With the 2021 SMJFL season up and running, the NGA program is back in full force with 84 Under 14 Boys, 71 Under 15 Boys and 76 Under 15 Girls nominated by the SMJFL’s 25 member clubs participating in ten weeks of training.
These players are mentored by the St Kilda FC’s coaching and development team, before being assessed by the SMJFL and St Kilda FC at week seven.
Select players are then invited to join the Interleague Squad to compete in the AFL Victoria Junior Development Series (AFLVJDS).
The Under 15 Girls squad warms up for the training session ahead
Peggy Martin, 14, is one player participating in the 2021 NGA program.
Hailing from East Brighton Vampires JFC, said she found her love for football in her time studying at the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School.
The young gun said she felt honoured to represent her junior club in the NGA program.
“It makes me feel proud of myself and proud of my teammates,” she said. “I’m always excited after school to go to training. I love footy so much.”
East Brighton Vampires JFC representative Peggy Martin takes part in the St Kilda FC NGA program
Kera Galaminda, 14, is another young gun representing her club, Brighton Beach JFC, currently playing in the SMJFL for her third year.
Kera spoke of her favourite part of the game.
“[I love] celebrating goals and backing up your teammates,” she said.
Kera encouraged others to “have a go” at football.
“Have a go. If you have a go, you’ll like it you’ll learn more and start playing.”
Young talent Peggy Martin and Kera Gulaminda, both 14
St Kilda NGA North Hub Coordinator NGA Josh Olver said the program provided an environment for young players to grow and excel.
“You can just tell the kids really enjoy being part of it, developing getting better, getting feedback, being competitive across the girls and boys,” he said.
“They come prepared [and] they’re really animated when they’re here. It’s just the general feel of this program.”
St Kilda NGA North Hub Coordinator Josh Olver
Olver outlined the next steps for the players selected for the Interleague sides.
“They’ll represent the SMJFL in this North Hub and they’ll play representative teams from other leagues such as Eastern Football League and Northern Football League,” he said.
“They’re all training really hard and playing as best as they can at local level and at school.”
The Interleague Squads will participate in two games over the Queen’s Birthday weekend on Saturday 12 and Monday 14 June.
The selected players will be formally presented their jumpers on Thursday 3 June, with the ceremony to be attended by special guest stars to be announced soon.
The remaining players will continue to be part of the NGA training squad and have the opportunity to develop their skills for the remainder of the season.