Jesse Lonergan is in the mix for a round one debut
A WORK ethic likened to Gold Coast's elite talent has helped propel rookie Jesse Lonergan into the frame for a round one debut.
The 18-year-old from Tasmania was taken by the Suns with the 13th pick of last year's National Draft, and has not put a foot wrong since.
And it's not just his 91kg man-sized body that has Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna excited.
After three seasons of senior footy with Launceston in the TFL, Lonergan is used to working hard to mix it up with the big boys.
"He's already mastered the art of training with intensity," McKenna said.
"He's naturally bigger and not used to the load, but he doesn't leave any stone unturned. You know you’re going to get as hard a trainer as you possibly can.
"I think he looks up to David Swallow, Dion Prestia, Jaeger O'Meara too. I think he looks at how those boys work. Jesse has a natural appetite for that but has seen those guys who are not much older and thought 'I want to train like that'."
Lonergan has been thrown into game simulations during the pre-season, going head-to-head with Swallow, O'Meara and Karmichael Hunt in the midfield.
He was a standout in the Suns' intra-club match and is all-but certain to play their NAB Cup openers against Hawthorn and the Brisbane Lions at Metricon Stadium on February 23.
Gold Coast physical performance boss Stephen Schwerdt is also impressed.
"He's a good example of a player who has combined his given talent with some serious training," Schwerdt said.
"They (players with ready-made bodies) can fit in a lot easier into the AFL system. You do monitor what they do and make concessions, but he's pretty advanced for a first-year player."
McKenna has hinted Lonergan is a chance of lining up against St Kilda on March 30 when premiership matches begin.
"We've got to get through a NAB Cup but he's doing everything possible to be a chance," McKenna said.
"There's no hard and fast rules. Clearly Jesse, I would think, from what I've seen so far, will play senior footy for sure.
"Whether that's round one of the NAB Cup or round one of the season, he's certainly putting every foot forward to play senior footy. How much he can cope with, that's the great unknown."
Jesse Lonergan is a $129,700 midfielder in NAB AFL Fantasy. Register your team at our AFL Fantasy Hub.
Michael Whiting covers Gold Coast news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_mikewhiting