BY DYLAN BOLCH & MAE JAMES
Junior football will return to Melbourne’s South-Metro region this Sunday 18 April.
The pandemic prevented kids from playing fixtured football throughout 2020, with Sunday marking 588 days since a traditional fixtured game for SMJFL kids.
The first siren will finally sound on the South Metro Junior Football League 2021 season on Sunday with the commencement of the Monash University Round.
The SMJFL provided the Football 4 Fun program in November 2020, sponsored by Monash University, where SMJFL kids were able to brush up on their skills and have a kick with their mates.
SMJFL Chief Executive Officer Sarah Loh said she was thrilled to see SMJFL kids get active again after Victoria’s extensive lockdown.
“The Football 4 Fun program was crucial for the kids’ mental and physical wellbeing after the height of the pandemic,” Ms Loh said.
“Now we and our 25 clubs are ready to jump back into football.”
With 475 teams and 9,895 players signed up for season 2021, Ms Loh said the Monash University Round will mark a special moment for the SMJFL.
“I am extremely excited for the commencement of the traditional season. Every kid is just desperate to get back out there, and we can’t wait to see them pick up a footy again,” Ms Loh said.
As the SMJFL’s Major Sponsor since 2016, Monash University has provided the league with ongoing support and commitment to fostering participation throughout junior football.
Ms Loh thanked all the league’s partners for their ongoing support, which made returning to football in 2021 possible.
“We are really appreciative of all our sponsors who were able to support us through the pandemic.”
Sunday’s weather forecast shows light drizzle throughout the day, and a high chance of fun and excitement.
Whilst the SMJFL kids are all looking forward to getting back out on the park, there are a few key matchups and noteworthy games to look out for this weekend.
Under 18 Girls Aqua – Waverley Park Hawks U18 Girls vs St Paul’s McKinnon JFC
Sunday, 3:00pm, Columbia Park
As some girls will be playing their first season in U18s and some will be returning for their last, the U18 girls from the Waverley Park Hawks and the St Paul’s McKinnon Doggies are more than ready to get stuck into the season.
After months of pre-season training, including the Monash University Football 4 Fun program, the two teams are just about bursting with excitement for Round 1.
Under 17 1/2 Boys Div 1 – East Sandringham Rovers vs Beaumaris FC U17 Boys Sharks
Sunday, 3:05pm, Peterson Oval 1
The East Sandringham Rovers and Beaumaris Sharks face off in what promises to be a fierce contest as the teams’ first competitive hit-out of the season.
Both sides have been training the house down over the pre-season and will no doubt be up for the contest come 3:05pm on Sunday. Who will start their season off with a win?
Under 16 Girls Red – Dingley JFC vs St Kilda City JFC Inc
Sunday, 10:30am, Chadwick Oval 1
The clash between the Dingley Dingoes and the St Kilda City Saints firms to be one of the games to watch of the round.
In Sunday’s second match on Chadwick Oval 1, both teams will be looking to start season 2021 off with a win.
With some girls returning and others lacing up the boots for the first time, the league expects there to be some fantastic leadership shown in this contest, with players helping each other out and playing their hearts out for their clubs.
Under 14 Girls Emerald – Ormond JFC vs Bentleigh JFC
Sunday, 9:30am, EE Gunn Reserve Oval 1
Ormond JFC will host Bentleigh JFC early on Sunday morning, with the girls sure to be bursting with excitement as they run out onto the field for the first time since 2019.
This will also mark the first time the newly–painted EE Gunn Reserve home-team changerooms, completed courtesy of Monarch Painting throughout the week as part of the ‘Renew A Club’ initiative.
This match is sure to be an eye-catcher, just like the new changerooms!
Under 9 Mixed Lime – Prahran JFC U9 James vs East Malvern JFC Smith
Sunday, 9:05am, Como Park
The Prahran JFC and East Malvern JFC U9s come together this Sunday and will certainly be chomping at the bit to partake in Monash University Round
Along with the Monash University Round this week, the Monash University Leader of the Month is back too.
The Monash Leader of the Year for 2020 was one of Prahran JFC’s very own, Tommy Haydon, so it will be great to see which other young leaders shine at Como Park this weekend.
Nominations for April’s Monash University Leader of the Month will open next week after Round 1, giving SMJFL kids plenty to look forward to throughout the season.
Under 8 Mixed Yellow – Mordialloc Braeside JFC U8 Yellow vs St Peters FC
Sunday, 9:30am, Walter Galt Reserve 2
756 Under 8s players will be playing their first fixtured junior football game ever. After not being able to participate in AusKick last year, the league’s youngest participants are ready to get out there and have some fun.
It’s fair to say that both Mordi Brae JFC and St Peters FC will both be looking to unearth the next stars of tomorrow amongst the boys and girls on Sunday morning.