Ahead of Charlie Ballard’s 50th AFL match on Saturday night at Metricon Stadium, SUNS media take a quick look at the defender’s young career to date.
The SUNS ‘intercept king’ has established himself as one of the league’s best young tall defenders and is set to raise the bat for the first major milestone of his young career, becoming the 34th player to reach 50 AFL games for the SUNS.
Drafted at pick no.41 in the 2017 AFL Draft, the defender was pinned as an athletic wingman following his arrival on the Gold Coast with the ability to be flexible across a number of roles across the park.
Ballard earned his first crack at the big time in frosty conditions in a Round 7 fixture against the Bulldogs in at MARS Stadium, kicking his first, and to-date only, goal late in the second term on the back of a 50-metre penalty, appropriately from the wing.
He made a further 11 appearances during his debut season before a swing to the SUNS backline took his career to another level, playing all but one game throughout 2019 and shipping huge responsibility in an injury-struck backline.
Shoulder surgery ahead of the 2020 AFL season appeared likely to curtail his blossoming young career, but the 21-year-old was an unlikely beneficiary of a postponed season, recovering in time to return following the COVID-19 break and form a formidable partnership in defence alongside 2020 Best and Fairest winner Sam Collins.
Praised as a “young man of tremendous character who has quickly become an integral part of the fabric of our club” by SUNS General Manager – Football Operations Jon Haines, Ballard finished seventh overall in the competition for intercept marks in 2020 and was recognised for his outstanding season with a nomination in the AFL Players’ Association’s 22 Under 22 squad.
After signing a contract extension which has the promising defender locked in until 2025, a sturdy display against the Eagles in Round 1, which included 21 disposals and 12 marks, will have SUNS fans frothing about the milestone man’s next 50 AFL games.