Making the 3,500km move across the country is not an easy task, especially at a young age, but for Gold Coast SUNS Academy young gun Jed Walter, it was a blessing.
The key forward’s passion for the game led him to develop his craft, joining the SUNS Academy when he was 12.
“I moved over from WA when I was nine and everyone thought I was going to switch over to play rugby league when I got here, but my whole family are big AFL supporters,” Walter said.
“I started playing footy when I moved over. Playing local footy and then I got selected in the SUNS Academy when I was 12.
“Through the years the commitment has gotten heavier with more training and more work as a team.
“I’m away from club footy now, so the Academy is like my full-time team. It’s been really good, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it”.
Walter has been strong in the Coates Talent League across 2022 and 2023, and as a bottom-ager he was named in the 2022 National Championships All-Australian team.
The SUNS Academy Under-18 team recently got to experience playing on the main deck at Heritage Bank Stadium, where Walter kicked eight goals, 19 disposals and nine marks in the dominant performance against Northern Territory.
The 195cm imposing figure has been praised for his unselfish nature, playing a crucial role in setting his teammates up for scoring opportunities.
“Our coach (Jarrod Cotton) has been pushing teamwork from day one,” Walter said.
“He wants us to always get around our teammates, celebrate their achievements and help move on from mistakes.
“Every individual helps. It’s not all about one player, it’s about the team and if we all work together as a team, we will have team success”.
“We have definitely started playing better as a team and it showed on the scoreboard”, Walter said following the 99-point victory over the Northern Territory Academy Under-18 boys team.
“We had a lot more entries inside the forward 50. It’s definitely something we need to do more consistently”.
His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, with the AFL Academy member being tipped as a key forward prospect in the 2023 AFL Draft pool.
He has taken plenty from his experience in the national Academy, including a Gather Round curtain closer.
“Mount Barker was very windy, but it was a very good experience, and I really enjoyed every moment of it,” Walter said.
“We played against bigger bodies and quicker players than we’re used, so it was great to learn from.
“There’s another national Academy game against Carlton at Marvel Stadium. It’ll be great to play that game.
“Then back to the SUNS Academy. Our next game is in Melbourne against Greater Western Victoria Rebels and then hopefully transition into the Allies squad.
“Playing on the main deck (Heritage Bank Stadium) was awesome. Seeing what the AFL boys do every day was pretty cool.
“Running out on the field, you kind of get goosebumps looking around at how big the stadium is, and then coming in and using the facilities was pretty special.
“It’s a lot bigger than Craigieburn where we usually play, so it’s a big difference. The weather is different down there as well. It’s cold and rainy. But yeah, it was unreal to play on the main deck.”
The 2023 season has seen the tall forward being unstoppable inside 50, smash 12 goals from 53 touches as well as taking 15 marks and making 11 tackles from the three games he has played this season in the Coates Talent League.
Walter said he was excited about entering the AFL Draft and a potential opportunity at AFL level.
“That would be unreal. It’s something that I’ve always strived for, to hopefully make the league one day,” Walter said.
“I’m on the right path with the SUNS Academy, and if I do everything right, I’ll hopefully get there”.