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Suns in discussions with NT about mutually beneficial arrangement

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GOLD Coast is in ongoing discussions with AFL Northern Territory about the possibility of forming a mutually beneficial arrangement.

The dialogue is believed to have started about 12 months ago, including the possibility of Darwin becoming a Next Generation Academy zone for the Suns. 

AFL.com.au understands any Gold Coast-AFLNT relationship would not mirror the previous arrangement Greater Western Sydney had with the NT, which gave the Giants priority access to all regions.

As part of that deal, GWS gained the rights to Jed Anderson and Curtly Hampton. 

Curly Hampton in action for the Giants in 2015. Picture: AFL Photos

There is likely to be an AFLW component as well, with AFLNT and Adelaide's three-year deal, which resulted in two premierships, ending in September. 

Sally Riley, Jasmyn Hewett and Tayla Thorn, who all spent time in the Northern Territory or grew up there, will represent Gold Coast in its inaugural AFLW season in 2020.

AFL.com.au revealed in July, as part of the AFL's ongoing review into the NGA system, that Darwin – which was previously not allocated to any club – could be an option for one or more teams to develop.

Collingwood, Essendon, Geelong, Hawthorn and Melbourne have dedicated NGA areas in the NT.

However, Darwin wasn't included as part of that allocation, because of the higher number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander footballers that have progressed from there to the AFL. 

There's been a gradual decline in the number of male NT players in the AFL in the past decade, and just one – Brisbane's Zac Bailey – was drafted from the Territory in the last two years.

AFLNT announced its five-year strategy in May, and one of the goals was to increase the number of Territory footballers on AFL and AFLW lists. 

Part of that plan is to increase the exposure of NT talent to AFL clubs. 

The NT Government also allocated $100,000 last year towards a 'scoping study' that investigated whether the Territory should aim for an AFL licence if one became available. 

The study looked at things such as the challenges an AFL team would face in the Northern Territory, sponsorship opportunities, local talent pathways and facility upgrades.