Jed Walter poses for a photo during Gold Coast's official team photo day on February 15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

DAMIEN Hardwick said he had no hesitation throwing Jed Walter straight into the AFL fire once the Gold Coast teenager had overcome his broken collarbone.

Walter, the power forward taken at No.3 in last year's AFL Draft, will debut against the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat on Sunday.

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The Gold Coast Academy product would have played in Opening Round if not for his pre-season injury, and speaking on Friday, Hardwick said he wasn't wasting any time getting the 18-year-old into the team.

"He's come in and taken training by storm once again," Hardwick said.


"We could sit there and be conservative and put him in at VFL level, or we could put him in the cut and thrust of AFL level.

"Let's just get him in there. 

"We think he's going to be a really good player, learn on the job, get great coaching, great feedback and great experience for him.

"He's only going to get better every game he plays."

Jed Walter marks the ball during the Coates Talent League match between Gold Coast Academy and GWV Rebels at Ikon Park on May 21, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Walter was told of his inclusion by Hardwick on Thursday, when the Suns coach visited his house to break the news to him and his mother.

The 195cm forward was one of four Academy players chosen in last year's draft, alongside Ethan Read, Jake Rogers and Will Graham.

"It's always exciting as a coach and footy club to reward a player you think is going to be pretty special," Hardwick said.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing him play, I'm sure our fans are too.

"He's going to be a good player for years and years to come."

Will Graham, Ethan Read, Jed Walter and Jake Rogers after the 2023 AFL Draft. Picture: AFL Photos

Gold Coast will be out to make it three straight wins to start the season for the first time since 2016 on Sunday.

The match will mark the 250th game for winger Brandon Ellis.