Connor Budarick has thrived since entering the full-time AFL system.

After captaining the SUNS Academy in 2019, Budarick was promoted to Gold Coast’s AFL list as a priority rookie selection ahead of last year’s AFL draft.

Since then he has blossomed into a young, dependable senior footballer, debuting in Round 1 and earning the Week 3 NAB AFL Rising Star nomination after a standout match on Sunday.

The 19-year-old was honoured to receive the nomination, but was quick to credit the team’s performance against Adelaide as a big factor in his anointment.

“It’s awesome, especially so early in the season to get that individual recognition,” Budarick said.

“It’s a confidence booster for weeks going forward but none of that can happen coming off the back of the team’s performance.

“I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.”

Budarick was known as a fierce inside midfielder in his junior career, but since being drafted to the AFL list has had to make a role change into defence.

His application and work ethic are exemplary, and saw him quickly acclimatise to his new position as a small defender.

He bolted into selection consideration leading into Round 1, and after injuries to fellow defenders Jarrod Harbrow and Pearce Hanley, earnt his opportunity to debut.

Since then he’s been immovable in his defensive post at AFL level.

So it’s perhaps symbolic that the veteran Harbrow is the one who has played a major hand in Budarick’s adaptation to defence.

“From day one I’ve had the guys who have helped me out,” Budarick said.

“I went under Jarrod Harbrow’s wing trying to learn little bits every time that we’d go out to train.

“Then when we have educational sessions as well (we’d) go through bits of vision. 

“He’s been around since day one so you obviously watch on and look at all those players that are performing well.

“You dream to be playing in the AFL so to be playing with them now, it’s even better.”