He’s worn Gold Coast colours throughout his junior career and time in the SUNS Academy, but it was different for Connor Budarick last weekend.

Saturday marked his first official fixture in a SUNS AFL guernsey after he was named in the backline for the Marsh Community Series match against Geelong.

The Academy rookie looked composed in defence, playing his role to be a part of the 68-point win.

“It was awesome – all the boys cracked in,” Budarick told SUNS Media post-match.

“We didn’t really do too much analysis on Geelong but went in with our own game plan.

“It started with our forwards and our frontline pressure – we probably had a record number of front-half takebacks which is something we really pride ourselves on.

“That helps us backs out a lot and the mids to be able to lock it in and then also capitalise.

“Overall it was a great performance.”

Budarick has played most of his football as a midfielder but switched into defence in his final year of Under 18 football with the Allies.

It earnt him All Australian honours and saw him selected in that position for the SUNS in the Marsh Series.

While he’s still acclimatising to the role, the 18-year-old said Saturday’s match was invaluable for him as a developing defender.

“It was a great learning for me,” he said.

“It’s a different role this year as a backman so every chance I get to be able to play on the best players in the league is a great learning for me.

“To be able to have the support down back as well with all the boys helping me learn has been awesome.”

Budarick was sporting a familiar guernsey for SUNS fans, donning the number 35 this season previously worn by the retired life-member Michael Rischitelli.

“It’s an honour to be able to put on his guernsey and go out and wear it with pride,” Budarick said.

“I couldn’t ask for a better number so shout-out to Risch, we all miss him.”