A young Gold Coast SUNS side ran out onto Whitten Oval on Saturday morning as they began their campaign against an experienced Footscray side.
The opportunity to play in a competition steeped in history, against quality opposition throughout the year is something developing SUNS players haven’t been afforded previously.
Speaking on Tuesday morning General Manager Football Jon Haines look to highlight the significance of the new look second tier competition.
“From a development point of view, it's absolutely a crucial part of our overall AFL program,” Haines said.
“To be able to play against quality opposition week in week out, quality AFL opposition, week in week out is really important.”
“The ability to travel as a team and go down to Victoria and play in those environments is really important for our team and our group.”
“Our players really enjoyed the opportunity and we think it's a great asset and a great addition to the program.”
One player who shined in his VFL debut for the SUNS was athletic key forward Patrick Murtagh.
Playing as one of the only key targets in the forward line, Murtagh kicked 2.2, had eight marks, 15 hitouts and 3 tackles in what was one of his strongest performances in SUNS colours.
“We think he’s shown some really rapid improvement, he played really well on the weekend off a fairly limited preparation.”
“He comes at the ball really nicely, took eight marks on the weekend and a number of those were really strong contested marks and we know he kicks the ball really well.”
“We're really excited about him, he's got an enormous amount of growth in front of him.”
With SUNS key position stocks taking a hit in the early weeks of the season, the opportunity for Murtagh to make his AFL debut could come sooner than we first thought.
“Patty prepares and trains really well, he's got a lot of traits that are going to hold him in really good stead in this environment.”
“If he keeps improving the way he is, he certainly going to give himself a chance (of playing AFL Football).”
Round 2 of the VFL competition will see the SUNS take on the Sydney Swans at Metricon Stadium from 9:45am.