Round 6 of the Coates Talent League will see a triple header played on the Gold Coast, with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy Boys Under 18 team competing with the NT Thunder in their first and only home game of the competition. 

The triple header will act as an opportunity for selectors to see players eligible for the Allies U18 squad, which will compete in the AFL Under 18 Championships in June/July, in action.

SUNS Academy Coach Jarrod Cotton says Coates Talent League matches are a massive opportunity for the young players as it gives them a chance to play against the best players from around Australia. 

“It’s a great opportunity for every player that’s in our squad and playing not just on Saturday, but all the games that we have played to put themselves on show,” Cotton said. 

“That’s the aim; Help these boys play understand what football at a high level looks like, developing their game to play better footy, be better people, but also have an opportunity to play for the Allies and play in the national carnival.”

The three games will feature the four AFL club Academy teams from Queensland and New South Wales, plus the Northern Territory and Tasmania, from which the Allies squad will be selected.

“We put forward who we think has had a really good Academy series for selection and then the selectors go from there and name the squad,” Cotton said. 

“After they’ve gone through the squad process, they will pick the team week-to-week and hopefully we have a fair few at least in the squad and hopefully they get to play some games.”

SUNS & AFL Academy members Ethan Read, Jed Walter and Jake Rogers recently earned the opportunity to play in the AFL Academy’s clash with Port Adelaide’s SANFL team during Gather Round, which the Cotton says has improved their game and leadership on the park. 

“They’ve all had really solid series so far. They’ve been in our better players most weeks,” Cotton said. 

“Jake, Ethan and Jed are in the AFL Academy, which is great, but that doesn’t guarantee anything either. 

“They still want to perform and make sure they put their hand up for selection, and this is another great opportunity. 

“Hopefully they get the opportunity to be part of the Allies and put their hand up to play in the games and put themselves on show.

Cotton has been impressed with performances across the squad so far, highlighting players such as Will Graham, Nick Williams, Leo Lombard and Josh Zanker-Close.

“We think there’s an opportunity hopefully for a lot of those boys to be able to get in the squad, but their focus at the minute is week-to-week, game-by-game as the coaches say, to just keep getting better and perform,” Cotton said. 

“It’s like the home ground advantage a little bit so for us to be able to play at home, it’s just a really exciting thing for the playing group. 

“I think whenever you play anything, whether it’s football, or whatever sport it is, you want to make sure that you’re enjoying yourself. 

“We haven’t played a home game yet. We played Brisbane up in Brisbane, but we haven’t had an actual home game on our ground yet. 

“So to be able to play on Heritage Bank Stadium is even better for the players to be able to experience an AFL ground, the changerooms and all the excitement that goes with it.

“They’re really excited about playing at home but also their parents get to come along too. 

“It’s been a long trip in regards to away games, especially in Melbourne, so now it’s great to have an opportunity to come home and play some good footy.

“They’re excited about the opportunity they get on Saturday and I think they’ll play with some real excitement and energy. 

The Gold Coast SUNS Academy play Northern Territory at 11.30am at Heritage Bank Stadium on Saturday. 

The other games are on the Austworld Centre Oval, with GWS Giants Academy playing Tasmania at 9.30am and the Brisbane Lions Academy and Sydney Swans Academy game commencing at 1.30pm.