AFTER being denied the chance 12 months ago, Gold Coast small forward Mal Rosas jnr gets to live out a childhood dream on Saturday night.
Just days before the Suns were due to play Hawthorn at Darwin's TIO Stadium in round 11 last season, the match was relocated to Sydney following a COVID-19 outbreak.
It was devastating for the Darwin born-and-raised Rosas jnr, who was hoping to play in front of friends and family at the top level for the first time.
But that chance will now come on Saturday night, when Gold Coast 'hosts' the Hawks in the second week of Sir Doug Nicholls Round.
"It's been a dream of mine since I got drafted," Rosas jnr told AFL.com.au.
"It was a shock last year when COVID hit and we couldn't go back. Knowing I'm going back, I'm as keen as."
Rosas was the first Gold Coast player pre-listed by the club from its Darwin Academy, added to its region following the 2019 season as part of a concession package.
He played junior footy at the Darwin Buffaloes, was in junior rep teams from the age of 15 (where he played alongside future teammate Joel Jeffrey) and found his way to the NT Thunder senior team, playing NEAFL.
Rosas jnr spent the first season at Gold Coast playing NEAFL again, and then managed four games in 2021.
However, after he knocked back some interest from Essendon to stay with the Suns during the off-season, Rosas jnr has found a home in Gold Coast's dynamic forward line.
He's played six games this season, kicking three goals in the upset win over Carlton in round four, and impressing with his speed and willingness to pressure without the ball.
"I just need to back myself,” the quietly spoken 20-year-old said.
"Confidence is a big thing I need to work on. I have good support around me.
"I've talked to Izak (Rankine) and he always tells me to trust myself and don't think, don't care about what everybody thinks, just play your game because that's what we need in the team.
"I try to bring my energy, my speed and just my goal sense, hunting the opposition.
"That's what the coaches want me to do and that's what I believe I'm good at."
Rosas jnr has the perfect platform on Saturday night, saying he's lost count of the number of ticket requests he's got from excited family members.
"It'll be the first time in a while we're all together as a family," he said.
"I'm the youngest sibling and youngest cousin on both sides.
"None of my family have watched me play AFL live.
"Everyone is texting me telling me how excited they are to come and see me, aunties, uncles, cousins, sisters, big brother, everybody is going to be there."