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Heron's debut one of a kind

goldcoastfc.com.au  May 23, 2018 2:55 PM

Jacob Heron is going to find himself in some good trivia quizzes regardless of what happens in the rest of his AFL career.

The 18-year-old Cairns small forward, who made his AFL debut for the Gold Coast SUNS in last Saturday’s clash with Port Adelaide in Shanghai, already ticks four trivia boxes.

The SUNS’ 103rd player overall, he is the first AFL player to make his AFL debut in China, the second-youngest SUN all-time, and the fifth member of the “first kick, first goal” club at the SUNS.

And, he is the youngest player from any club to play in an AFL premiership match overseas.

It was all part of an astonishing few days last week for the first-year SUNS rookie and SUNS Academy product.

Heron flew to China without having any idea that he would play against Port. He thought he was travelling for experience, as he’d done on the recent two-game trip to Perth.

Then, after telling the media his only disappointment was that his family would miss his debut, he was further flabbergasted when, although his father was unable to make the trip, his mother Jillian and brother Oscar arrived in China after some slick behind-the-scenes work by SUNS player welfare manager Sam Coen.

Heron became the AFL’s first debutant in China, going one better than teammate Brad Scheer, who played his second AFL game in the corresponding match in 2017.

Aged 18 years 164 days on debut, Heron slotted into second spot on the club’s youngest player list, ahead of Alex Sexton (18/168) and behind only David Swallow (18/134).

When he kicked a goal with his first kick late in the first quarter Heron joined Charlie Dixon (2011), Joey Daye (2011), Josh Glenn (2015) and Keegan Brooksby (2005) in this exclusive club.

Ironically, Dixon, who the SUNS’ first AFL goal in the SUNS first game against Carlton at the Gabba in 2011 and kicked two goals with his first two kicks, is another Cairns boy. Like Heron and Saturday teammates Jarrod Harbrow and Jack Bowes.

Heron, who became the fifth SUNS player to wear jumper #40 behind Tom Hickey (12 games), Andrew Boston (8), Sean Lemmens (36) and Scheer (4), is the 25th Queenslander to play with the Gold Coast club.

He is the fifth AFL player overall to debut off-shore after two St.Kilda players and two Carlton players did so as part of a three-game AFL experiment in Wellington, New Zealand, in 2013-14-15.

Brodie Murdoch and Josh Saunders debuted for the Saints against the Swans in 2013, and Matthew Dick and Blaine Boekhurst debuted for the Blues against the Saints in 2015.

Saunders, aged 18 years 237 days on debut, was the youngest of this bracket, leaving Heron the youngest AFL player off-shore all-time.

Heron also became the fifth graduate of Palm Beach Currumbin High School to play for the SUNS, following Scheer, Brayden Crossley, Jesse Joyce and Max Spencer.

Just as Heron has written his own slice of trivia history, teammate and fellow Queenslander Crossley has put together his own career oddity, having played his first game in Ballarat, his second at the Gabba as a member of the ‘home’ side, and his third in China.

Also, in China, sickness suffered by Jack Martin forced him to be a late omission from the game against Port, ended what had been the SUNS’ longest live streak of consecutive games.

Martin had played 39 games in a row until then to rank fifth on the club’s all-time consecutive games list behind Tom Lynch (57), Harbrow (45), Jaeger O’Meara (44) and Danny Stamley (40).

This leaves the 19-game streak of Harbrow and Touk Miller as the longest ‘live’ streak now.

Jarrod Witts, voted the SUNS best player by the coaches, had 13 clearances to almost double his previous career-best of seven. He also had a career-best 18 contested possessions.

Bowes, playing his 19th game, became the club record-holder for games in jumper #29. He has surpassed Tom Murphy.