THE FUTURE of footy on the Gold Coast looks bright, with the Suns' youngsters shining as the club claimed its first NAB AFL Academy Series over the weekend.
Played between the four northern Academies within the newly introduced NAB League over the past five weeks, as well as Northern Territory and Tasmania, Gold Coast's Academy overcame Sydney's on percentage as it claimed its first series win with a 4-1 record.
Diminutive midfielder Connor Budarick was the standout for the Suns, with the club's Academy captain averaging 24.4 disposals and nine tackles across the five games.
Gold Coast also received standout performances from exciting Papua New Guinea prospect Hewago 'Ace' Oea, as well as midfield duo Ashton Crossley and Corey Joyce.
The pair are younger siblings of two current Suns, with Crossley the brother of imposing ruckman Brayden Crossley and Joyce the younger brother of defender Jesse Joyce.
Bottom-age prospect Alex Davies, a tall inside midfielder standing at 190cm, has been compared to Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury and also received plaudits for his series.
Midfielder Alex Davies in action for the All Australian under-17 team against New Zealand. Picture: AFL Photos
However, according to Gold Coast Academy manager Jason Torney, it's the 176cm Budarick who Suns fans should be keeping an eye on ahead of this year's NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
"He's small in stature but huge in courage and character," Torney told AFL.com.au.
"He's a great leader of our footy club, he kicks it off both legs really well, he's got dynamite speed, he's got a great tank and he's really hard at it.
"He really ticks all of the AFL attribute boxes. He's just going to have to work his arse off to be versatile so he can play in different spots, being a little bit shorter.
"He's going to be a regular in that Allies team. Look for him to be really hard at the contest, but also use the football. He'll have a really high efficiency rate."
The series featured the six teams playing two games against rival Academy sides, as well as three matches against Victorian teams featuring in the NAB League.
The four Academy teams, as well as Northern Territory, will subsequently return to the NEAFL later in the season, while Tasmania will remain in the NAB League.
Five more to watch
Errol Gulden (Sydney)
The classy bottom-age prospect averaged 28 disposals from his three matches. He's an elite endurance runner who generally plays on the wing.
Braeden Campbell (Sydney)
A prodigious left-foot kick who can find the footy and hit the scoreboard. Kicked bags of three goals against Sandringham and GWS. Another bottom-age Swans prospect.
Tom Green (Greater Western Sydney)
A pure midfielder who racks up plenty of the footy. He averaged 31 disposals across four matches in what was an incredibly consistent campaign.
Jeromy Lucas (Greater Western Sydney)
He generally starts on a half-forward flank but can also push through the midfield and win his fair share of the ball. He averaged just over 26 disposals across his five games.
Will Martyn (Brisbane)
The midfielder won more than 30 disposals in three of his five matches across the campaign, standing out as one of Brisbane's best prospects.
AFL Academy Series ladder
1. Gold Coast (4-1, 137.4%)
2. Sydney (4-1, 127.1%)
3. Tasmania (2-3, 99.2%)
4. Greater Western Sydney (2-3, 86.1%)
5. Brisbane (1-4, 60.4%)
6. Northern Territory (0-5, 50.3%)