GOLD Coast has surprised young gun Jacob Heron on the eve of his historic debut, flying his mother and brother over to China so they could watch him play his first ever AFL game.
The Suns academy product was told at training on Thursday he would be selected for his first senior game of football since being recruited in the rookie draft last year.
“After training yesterday, Stuey brought the boys in and just announced it in front of the group and all the boys got around me,” Heron said on Friday morning.
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“It was an awesome experience. Honestly I didn’t even think I’d be on the plane to start with. I just arrived here and wasn’t expecting too much and when it happened yesterday, I was like ‘Jesus, is this actually happening?’
The 18-year-old rang his parents straight after training to share the good news, but he was disappointed when they told him they wouldn’t be able to make the trip at such short notice.
But it was all part of the Suns’ plan, with his mother Jillian and brother Oscar put on a flight from Cairns on Thursday night. His father was unable to make the trip.
They arrived at the club hotel in Shanghai in the early afternoon, surprising Heron after training.
The North Queenslander will become an instant trivia question on Saturday, when he becomes the first ever AFL player to debut in China.
And the significance of the occasion is not lost on the teenager.
“Some of the boys mentioned it last night and we were trying to figure out if it was true or not,” he said.
“I guess it is, which is unreal. To be over here in China is almost surreal, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet but I am looking forward to Saturday.”
While he might be the first to debut in China, he’s certainly not the first Suns product to come out of Palm Beach Currumbin High School.
Heron, who relocated from Cairns for year 12, follows in the footsteps of fellow alumni Brad Scheer, Jesse Joyce, Brayden Crossley, Max Spencer and Jacob Dawson.
There’s also a strong Cairns flavour seeping through the Suns, with Jarrod Harbrow and Jack Bowes, who Heron has known since he was 10 years old, hailing from the same town.
“My parents are still living in Cairns,” Heron said.
“Obviously Jack moved down a year before me, and to see him be able to move down and make it into the Suns and play AFL in his first year was really inspirational, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can make it.
“As soon as I got to the club I’ve tried to use Jarrod as an inspiration and a model. He’s been awesome, everyone in Cairns talks about how Jarrod’s going and how Jack is going and to be able to play with those boys is awesome.”