A SCOTT Pendlebury clone – right down to the basketball background – looms as Gold Coast's biggest upcoming Academy prize in the AFL's latest concessions for the fledgling club.
Along with a suite of extra draft picks, including the No.1 selection this year, the Suns will also have new academy rights and priority access to Darwin talent.
Gold Coast is now as good as certain to choose Oakleigh Chargers premiership teammates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson at the top of this year's draft.
Noah Anderson (left) and Matt Rowell look like heading to the Suns together. Picture: AFL Photos
They will also be able to pre-sign Academy players without having to match rival clubs' potential bids for the next three years – starting in 2019 – although the AFL will review this annually.
Alex Davies, a smooth-moving 189cm midfielder drawing Pendlebury comparisons, projects as a first-round pick next year.
However, these new circumstances mean Gold Coast will score him for nothing.
Davies was an All Australian at the 2018 AFL Under-16 Championships, represented the Allies at the under-18 equivalent this year and played in the Under-17 NAB All-Stars 'Futures' game on Saturday.
The 17-year-old also starred in the Academy Series this year that the Suns won for the first time, with four wins from five matches.
Davies represented Queensland in basketball at under-16 and under-18 level and was in NBL team Cairns Taipans' Academy, but last year committed his sporting future to football.
The Suns are set to immediately benefit from the revised Academy rules, with Queenslanders Connor Budarick and Hewago 'Ace' Oea and Darwin's Malcolm Rosas and Ben Jungfer all considered draftable.
Small defender-midfielder Budarick was expected to draw a bid as early as the second round, while speedy forwards Oea and Rosas are further down the board.
Connor Budarick in action. Picture: AFL Photos
Kieren Parnell, who is originally from Alice Springs but now lives in Darwin, played for NT Thunder this season and might also be in the mix.
Other Queenslanders to watch in the coming years include 194cm defender Jack Johnston (2020) and 175cm backman Austin Harris (2021) who was an under-16 All Australian in 2019.
Darwin's Joel Jeffrey will be up for grabs next year, along with Tyrell Lui, after kicking two goals and showing some exciting glimpses in the 'Futures' clash at the weekend.
Brodie Lake, another Top End prospect who is completing his schooling in Western Australia, joined Harris in this year's under-16 All Australian squad, while Ned Stevens is another to watch.