He arrived at the Austworld Centre doors as a self-confessed ‘class clown’ but fast track seven years and Wil Powell has transformed himself into a developing leader on the Gold Coast.

The 24-year-old’s season couldn’t have started on a sweeter note, playing a prolific role across half-back in the SUNS’ Opening Round win over the Tigers.

A four-year contract extension, which ties him to the Gold Coast until the end of 2029 and sees him turn his back on free agency is another sign of the transformation from the ‘immature teenager’ from WA.

That transformation was kicked started by a cross-country journey from Mum & Dad in his first season and is fittingly progressing in 2024 with Powell raising one of his own.

“In my first year, I was really homesick. I wanted to go back home, I wasn’t really enjoying it,” Powell said.

“Because of my immaturity, I wasn’t making relationships within the club, I’d say some stupid things here and there and people would turn their eyes away from me.

“I found that quite difficult… I was a bit of a class clown and my mates back at high school did enjoy that because it got a cheap gag… but then you come into a footy club where it’s a process-orientated, professional environment.

“Mum and Dad came over in my second year with both of my sisters and three dogs made the car trip over the Nullarbor.

“We locked in in Worongary for a year and it made me so much more comfortable… coming back from training, there’d be dinner on the table, there’d be brekkie in the morning from Mum.

“That’s what I was missing for that one year. It got to that stage at the end of the year where you turn to you Mum and Dad and say ‘I love ya, but I don’t need you anymore. I’ve got enough feathers on my wings to jump out of the nest and fly.’

“I’ll always be so grateful for what they did, especially making that big move from WA to Queensland. They did such a big thing for me.”

It’s been far from smooth sailing for Wil since then, battling numerous severe injuries.

And while footy and his battle for consistent time on field would have previously consumed him, welcoming little son Theo into the world just a matter of weeks ago has flipped the script.

“I’ve really surprised myself as a parent. Baz always says ‘how are you so maternal?’ And I’ve just been really in awe of the whole parenting lifestyle,” Powell continued.

“You have a new little life you have to look after and nurture… it gives you a whole new perspective on life.

“Before he came along, it was just footy, footy, footy. Now you get home, you don’t pick up the laptop or phone, I’ve got the little fella on my chest after a feeding, helping him burp or changing a nappy.

“Coming back home, footy is the last thing you think about… it gives you a nice breath of fresh air.”

Becoming a father on the eve a new season brings its challenges though with Powell and partner Bailee ironing out a plan to ensure it’s all systems go come the opening bounce each weekend.

The versatile defender says he’s looking forwarded to immersing Theo inside the four walls of the club, as he’s seen with older teammates throughout his young career. 

“We have a great system at home, me and my partner, with the sleeping arrangements,” Powell continued.

“I sleep in a different bed before game days because that’s my job, and she’s been really open to all the little things I have to get right in terms of a routine that I need to perform at my best for the team.

“I remember being at the club and looking at young Charlie, David Swallow’s little boy, being able to run around with a Gold Coast jumper and his dad’s number on the back… I get goosebumps thinking about it.

“It’s going to be such a special moment realising that be understands what Dad does and how special he’s going to be felt within the whole club.”