The Gold Coast SUNS officially welcomed over 400 junior players and their parents to the club last week at the 2022 Gold Coast and Northern Rivers Academy Hub Launch.

With over 600 people in the room at Griffith University Gold Coast campus, and hundreds more tuning in via video link, the SUNS Academy officially launched its 2022 campaign with a new streamlined structure.

The region’s best young talent across the male and female Under 13-16 age group convened to hear from new Academy Coordinator, Casey Haw as he outlined the to the players and their families what the new look program would entail. 

The SUNS Academy is an innovative program that aims to provide young athletes with a unique opportunity to participate in a first-class sport and education experience facilitated by the club. 

Providing a multi-level coaching program for aspiring players aged between 13 and 16 years of age at a key stage in the pathway from junior sport to the elite level AFL and AFLW competitions. 

The program is centred around the development of the individual and their ability to contribute in a team environment and out amongst the wider community. 

With the aim of closing the gap between community football programs and the elite level, the SUNS Academy allows the most talented players from our regions to challenge themselves in a professional and intense football setting. 

Aspiring academy players got the opportunity to hear from SUNS Academy graduates Jack Bowes, Serene Watson and Ellie Hampson as they outlined their experiences as part of the program. 

The room of 600 people was glued on every word as Watson outlined the things to focus on in their development, Hampson spoke about her pathway from Townsville and the importance of getting to know your teammates whilst Bowes stressed the importance of being able to play multiple positions in the team. 

Like the three players present at the launch, the SUNS Academy has already produced 43 players who have gone on to represent either the GC SUNS or other clubs in both the AFL or AFLW competitions. 

Gold Coast SUNS General Manager Player Talent and Strategy Craig Cameron who was on hand at the launch has set ambitious targets for the Academy in the years to come.

“The Academy is a crucial part of our football club, as we aim not only to grow the game of AFL here in Queensland and Darwin but provide our AFL and AFLW teams with the best talent coming through our region,” Cameron said.

“We want our Academy program to be revered throughout the country and the competition as an elite program and pathway for developing players and preparing them for the rigors of professional sport.

“It was fantastic to have so many aspiring athletes and their parents in the one room as we set out what the program will look like for them and their children, we’re looking forward to an exciting year ahead.”