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Suns working hard to make draftees 'feel at home'

Sun Ben Ainsworth hits the track - AFL,Gold Coast Suns,Ben Ainsworth
Sun Ben Ainsworth hits the track

OF ALL the challenges facing Gold Coast in 2019, perhaps the biggest is ensuring its top-end draft talent are made to feel at home. 

Jack Lukosius (pick No.2), Izak Rankine (No.3), Ben King (No.6) and Jez McLennan (No.23) were all drafted in November and all have had to relocate from interstate. 

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After three weeks off over Christmas the quartet returned to pre-season training with the rest of their teammates on a steamy Thursday morning at Carrara. 

Originally scheduled to train for an hour, the Suns toiled away for almost two hours with a mix of ball-work and running.

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Just two years ago, Ben Ainsworth was the highly touted draftee, taken fourth overall in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft and forced to relocate from Victoria.

The 20-year-old now calls Gold Coast "home" and says the club has changed significantly since he joined.

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Despite the departures of big names Tom Lynch, Steven May, Gary Ablett, Jaeger O'Meara and Dion Prestia in recent years, Ainsworth says things have changed. 

"We've obviously had problems with that (retention) in the past, which has been well documented, but they've (draftees) fitted in well," Ainsworth said.

"They've been great. I think the club's been fantastic welcoming them on board, housing them and making them feel at home. - Ben Ainsworth

"Everyone's been welcoming, inviting guys to coffee and around for dinner and lunches. 

"The mood and the vibe around the club has been really good and I think it helps everyone with their footy, whether it be off-field or on-field, everyone feels comfortable approaching people."

Ainsworth is contracted until the end of 2020 and said he couldn't think of a better place to be. 

"We've worked on that the last 24 months with our culture and turning things around," he said. 

"We've found the right balance at the moment with football and off-field and building the right values."

The entire Suns squad was on hand at the first session with just Jarrod Harbrow, Michael Rischitelli and Jack Leslie on slightly modified – although still running-intensive – programs.