The Gold Coast SUNS have embarked on a series of community visits this week ahead of the season launch of the AFL Gold Coast Juniors competition.
Players from the SUNS AFL and AFLW teams will visit each of the 14 local football clubs in the Gold Coast region to run clinics alongside AFL Queensland as part of the club’s commitment to growing grassroots football.
Ben King, Sarah Perkins, Sean Lemmens and Luke Towey were four SUNS who visited Pacific Pines Power this week to deliver a gift box of merchandise and join in on training sessions with the various age groups.
Jason Churchill, coach of the Under 10 boys at Pacific Pines and passionate SUNS member, said it was so valuable for a local club to have access to AFL superstars who come to visit.
“The kids well and truly do follow the players and the club when they see them in the flesh which is a unique experience for them and fantastic for a small club like us,” Churchill said.
“It makes a massive difference because it’s actually something for them to look up to and strive to play for the local club the Gold Coast SUNS one day.
“It just really motivates the kids to improve their own footy.”
So far in 2021 there has been a 17% increase on junior and youth registrations on the Gold Coast.
10-year-old Jett Churchill plays in the team coached by his dad and said it was always a highlight when the SUNS came to visit.
“It’s very cool to get some very well-known SUNS players to come down to our junior club,” he said.
“Ben Ainsworth is my favourite player I’ve liked him for a little while.
“It can at times make it a little bit more competitive with the SUNS players here and it makes us usually work harder and show what we’re really made of.”
Ben King said he remembers having players visit him at his junior club and the impact that had on his drive to become an AFL footballer.
“I was lucky enough to have a few players come down when I was a young lad so to be able to do it is really special to be able to give back,” King said.
“It was massive, I used to get really excited and it obviously starts that motivation to want to become an AFL footballer.
“Seeing the smile on the kids’ faces just brings me back to why I play football and my love for the game.”
The AFL Gold Coast Juniors season gets underway this weekend across both male and female competitions.