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Suns boost their SA haul after live pick trade

Gold Coast traded early on day two of the NAB AFL Draft to land SA prospect Jez McLennan - AFL,Draft,Gold Coast Suns
Gold Coast traded early on day two of the NAB AFL Draft to land SA prospect Jez McLennan

GOLD Coast's decision to enter the live trading sweepstakes was about cashing in on a talented South Australian brigade and scuppering any rival threat to the man they wanted.

The Suns started Friday's draft proceedings by sending picks 27 and 32 to the Eagles for 23 – the first of the day – and a fifth-round selection in 2019.

They used it to nab Central District product Jez McLennan, a 185cm attacking half-back who shone in South Australia's triumphant AFL Under-18 Championships campaign.

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The 18-year-old, who was linked to Gold Coast before the draft, won All Australian honours, is an intercepting specialist and placed equal-fifth in the Yo-Yo test at the Draft Combine.

The Suns and list manager Craig Cameron already chose fellow South Australian young guns Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine with picks two and three, respectively, on Thursday night.

"We rated Jez really highly and obviously our first round finished at (pick) six last night," Cameron said.

"Jez was still on the board and overnight there were a couple of clubs before our next selection that we thought might be a danger.

"We rated him highly enough to trade up to get him, so we're really happy to have Jez.

"The last three years, the South Australian program has produced some really good talented players … so it's hard to pass them up."

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Tall Victorian swingman Ben King, who stands 202cm and starred up forward in 2018, was Gold Coast's other top-10 draftee despite there being concern about him wanting to remain in Victoria.

Add to that the Suns' well-documented problems with retaining talent and it was a significant talking point, on top of keeping Lukosius, Rankine and McLennan.

"We've made a lot of changes in the off-season to our off-field staff and we're probably going to have the most well-resourced player excellence division (in the AFL)," Cameron said.

"So we're really confident the guys will stay – they're excited about coming up.

"I think most boys probably want to stay in the state they were born in, but ultimately it's a national competition and (King) understood that.

"We had him and his family with us last night and they were really excited."

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Lukosius and Rankine were contenders to be the dux of this year's draft class, an honour Carlton gave to Geelong Falcon Sam Walsh, and promise to be great building blocks for Gold Coast.

Lukosius is compared to St Kilda great Nick Riewoldt for his elite running capability and strong hands and boasts excellent kicking skills.

The mercurial Rankine is the second coming of Adelaide's dual Norm Smith medallist Andrew McLeod.

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The Suns have typically been quick to re-sign their top draftees to lucrative contract extensions, but Cameron said they would be strategic with their decision-making in that regard.

"We'll take a look at each player individually in terms of how we're going to contract them," he said.

"We're not going to do anything stupid from a contractual position – we have to be really stringent with the way we manage our TPP (total player payments).

"But (we understand) they're highly drafted players, so they're going to demand (bigger) contracts when they come out of their rookie contract, so we'll work through that in the next couple of months."

Gold Coast rounded out its draft haul with Cairns-raised key position player Caleb Graham, a Suns Academy prospect.

"He's had two years of really strong footy in our Academy," Cameron said.

"This year he got thrown around a fair bit. He played a bit of key forward, played a bit of key back and ruck. The year before he played really solid footy as a key back.

"He's a boy from North Queensland and we've brought him down to the Gold Coast the last two years, so for him to get a chance on the primary list is really good."