SUNS GM – List & Strategy Craig Cameron believes the Academy system will remain an integral part of the AFL’s strategy to continue to grow the game post-COVID.
The SUNS Academy program, along with other Academies throughout the AFL, have been put on hold since the coronavirus pandemic hit with a return date uncertain at this stage.
Speaking on AFL.com.au’s Road to the Draft podcast, Cameron said the SUNS Academy had an important role in the club’s overall strategy since its inception.
“It grows our brand in the marketplace because we have a lot of young men and women playing in our academies and wearing our colours and building an attachment to the football club,” Cameron said.
“As a club that’s only been around for 10 years it’s a generational build and the Academy helps participation.
“What we also have at the elite level is a growth in talent which will eventually help for us to have a really high percentage of players from Queensland representing the Gold Coast.
“Again I think that helps us as a football club and our connection to the community but it also helps having local talent that you know is connected and has grown up barracking for the footy club and it also removes a little bit of the go-home factor for us.”
While the Academy is extremely important to the SUNS, Cameron said it should also be of high consideration for the AFL during these times.
“I think from a game perspective, growth of the game is still one of the strategic pillars of the AFL and I don’t think COVID has changed that,” he said.
“I think we’re probably better placed to continue to grow the game and it’s the best time to continue that push.
“To not continue the academies, I think would be a really bad idea from a total game perspective.”
While speaking on the podcast, Cameron also turned his eye to this year’s AFL draft.
He said there was enough talent to complement the SUNS’ list as part of the club’s overall recruiting strategy.
“We’re excited by the top end, there’s no doubt,” he said.
“There’s a number of key-position types at the top end of the draft that look pretty good.
“We think after that it’s pretty even - there’s a number of good players in the top 20 who will be available so overall we actually quite like the draft.”
The SUNS have had eight top 30 draft picks in the last two years.
The 2018 draft had a focus on key position players in the likes of Jack Lukosius and Ben King while 2019 saw the club bring in elite midfield talent in Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson and Sam Flanders.
Cameron said this year, the club could start to narrow its focus on what types of players it needed to make a push up the ladder.
“It’s one of the great recruiting questions; do you pick on need or do you pick on the best player,” he said.
“The truth is you do a bit of both because your needs tend to have an impact on how you view the draft.
“Looking at what’s available in this year’s draft and also what’s available to us in our Academy, I think there’s enough of the types that we need in the top part of the draft that will give us plenty of scope.”