GOLD Coast is set for more Academy prospects to emerge this year but there remains uncertainty about whether the Suns will need to match bids on their players again.
While the AFL has wound back access to Next Generation Academy players, the four northern clubs – Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sydney and Greater Western Sydney – have retained priority access on their Academy products at all stages of the NAB AFL Draft.
Under the AFL's list concession package to the Suns at the end of 2019, the club did not have to match bids on any Academy players for three years, meaning the likes of Connor Budarick, Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey all joined the club outside of the regular bidding system.
That rule remains in place for this season however is subject to review by the AFL later this year, with the Suns last year swapping draft picks for future selections in case they needed to use the points for Academy players again.
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The League last year put a block on the Suns trading out their start-of-second-round pick for 2021, which was also part of the assistance package.
Austin Harris looms as one of this year's leading Academy prospects in the pool and the 175cm skillful midfielder is tied to the Suns.
The Suns also have access to Jye Lockett, the nephew of Sydney and St Kilda goalkicking champion Tony, with Lockett having relocated to play for the Greater Western Victoria Rebels in the NAB League.
Darwin remains as part of the Suns' Academy catchment, with key forward Ned Stevens – a 196cm marking option – and bullocking midfielder Antonio James tied to the club out of that region.
A group of Suns prospects who didn't get drafted last year, including Brodie Lake, Max Pescud, Ryan Pickering and Jack Johnson, will also be in the mix.
Josh Fahey spent time with the Suns' Academy last year but is tied to Greater Western Sydney's group, and is viewed as one of the leading northern Academy prospects. The penetrating left-footer plays off half-back and has caught the eye of scouts.
Josh Green, the younger brother of Giants midfielder Tom, is training with Richmond in the hope of landing a spot via the pre-season supplemental selection period but if not is likely to play for the Giants' VFL side and will qualify for the club's Academy again, while Sam Stening and Mackinley Miller are others to track.
Brisbane has a number of Academy prospects who were overlooked at last year's draft.
Tahj Abberley, a small half-back/midfielder who can accumulate the ball, shapes as a possible Academy selection, while hard-working midfielder Saxon Crozier is another who will be tracked through the season.
Tall defender Jack Briskey is training with Collingwood for an SSP position but would be eligible for the Lions Academy if unsuccessful, and Noah McFadyen, the younger brother of current Lion and previous Academy graduate Connor, will enter his draft year this season.
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Others available for the Lions this year include midfielder Sam Winterbottom and Sudanese prospect Kuot Thok.
Fresh from a bumper Academy crop that netted them top-five pick Braeden Campbell, gun midfielder Errol Gulden and rookie Marc Sheather, the Swans don't have the same top-enders available in 2021.
Marco Rossman, a running midfielder who was eligible for last year's draft, will be an option while Austin Ball, a small forward with sharp skills, key forward Liam Puncher and runner Felix Rogers also among those likely to be monitored.