They’ve had totally different footballing journeys, but on Sunday first-year players Jack Lukosius and Chris Burgess will both make their AFL debut at Marvel Stadium.
The South Australian pair came to the club at the end of last year and have impressed early with their aptitude to senior football.
Burgess, 23, joined the SUNS as one of three AFL Special Assistance players after starring in the SANFL as an open-age player.
Lukosius, 18, has a much different story after coming through the elite pathway programs and being selected in the 2018 AFL Draft with the SUNS’ first selection at number 2.
SUNS Senior Coach Stuart Dew said there was plenty to like about the pair of South Australians.
“It’s fantastic news for the footy club and really good for those two boys to experience their first AFL game and be able to then share that with their friends and families,” Dew told SUNS Media.
“They obviously came into the club at the end of last year and we’ve really been impressed with what they’ve been able to bring not just on the field but off the field as well.
“It’s a bit of reward for effort and I’m sure those boys are going to do us proud.”
After being cut by his SANFL club at age 14, Burgess missed out on playing representative football as a junior.
But he impressed West Adelaide SANFL coaches with his strong contested marking skills at a come and try day at 18 years old, and later forced his way into the senior team to have a 2018 season to remember.
Originally a defender with a long and accurate kick, Burgess was moved into the forward line last year and kicked 18 goals in as many games to put himself on the SUNS’ radar.
The rest is history, as Burgess signed with the SUNS and built his aerobic capacity throughout the pre-season to earn an AFL debut from Round 1.
“Coming into it I probably wasn’t expecting to play Round 1,” Burgess said.
“Obviously being the new guy to the club I’ve just been trying to work hard and get to know all the structures and the way we play so it was definitely a surprise to find out I was playing.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Lukosius has always been earmarked for big things.
Unlike Burgess, Lukosius has come through the elite representative pathway and was in conversations to be taken with the number one draft pick last year.
He booted 14 goals in 13 games during the SANFL in 2018 and, after being drafted by the SUNS, has only impressed with his forward craft.
The 18-year-old said he was always eyeing off a Round 1 berth and is relieved to be given his chance so early.
“It’s probably been in the back of my mind the whole pre-season and I played both JLT (matches) and thought I played my role pretty well without going over the top,” Lukosius said.
“I was hoping to get an opportunity and they’ve showed some faith in me so hopefully I can play well on the weekend and have a good crack.”
Both he and Burgess will get the opportunity to do just that this Sunday against a depleted St Kilda backline missing the likes of Jake Carlisle, Nathan Brown and Dylan Roberton.
Named in the starting forward line, the pair will provide solid support for key pillar Peter Wright and look to hit the scoreboard as often as possible.
The pair will also have plenty of family in attendance from Adelaide for the important match which commences at 1:10pm (AEDT) on Sunday.