THE 2020 draft class's answer to Caleb Daniel has given AFL recruiters another reason to focus on his performances rather than his height.
Errol Gulden, a 172cm midfielder – only 4cm taller than Western Bulldog Daniel – won the best-on-ground medal for UNSW-Eastern Suburbs in Saturday's AFL Sydney Grand Final.
Congratulations to QBE Sydney Swans Academy player Errol Gulden for winning Best on Ground in the @AFLSydney Men’s Premier League Grand Final today! Errol’s been in our Academy program since U11s— Sydney Swans (@sydneyswans) September 14, 2019
Narelle Spangher pic.twitter.com/PXN6epXyU3
The Bulldogs have won back-to-back Premier Division flags, defeating Sydney University by 18 points, with ex-AFL footballers Dean Towers, Brandon Jack and Darren Pfeiffer among Gulden's teammates.
Adam Dunkley, cousin of AFL-listed brothers Josh and Kyle Dunkley, and Jesse Aish, cousin of Collingwood's James Aish, also played for UNSW-Eastern Suburbs.
Gulden is in the Swans' Academy and considered a potential first-round draft pick next year, along with close friend and fellow Sydneysider Braeden Campbell.
THINNER CROP No complaints about 2019's northern Academy class
He represented Australia's under-17 side in an Anzac Day clash with New Zealand in April, and was the best and fairest player in Division Two of the NAB AFL Under-16 Championships in 2018.
Gulden was also best afield for UNSW-Eastern Suburbs in last year's AFL Sydney under-19s Grand Final before matching his older brother Adam's effort in winning the senior equivalent.
"The best players tend to stand up in the big games and I definitely pride myself on big games," Gulden told AFL.com.au.
"To be able to do it two years in a row is unbelievable.
It still hasn't really sunk in, because my brother won the best-on in 2012 … so that adds a little bit something special onto that as well.
"We have a very close family and Adam was out there watching and he said to me he was happier than when he won it, which shows how much it means to everyone."
Gulden's 18-year-old sister, Senna, is also a two-time premiership winner at UNSW-Eastern Suburbs.
The Bulldogs have produced eight AFL draftees in the past nine years, the most recent of which was Sydney's Nick Blakey.
NSW'S FOOTY FACTORY Little-known Sydney gem delivers the goods
Gulden plans to add to that tally next year, after finishing his Year 12 studies at Marcellin College in Randwick over the next few months.
"It's a bit surreal seeing your name in articles and stuff like that, but I try not to take too much notice of it," he said.
"The good thing for me is I live in Sydney, and my school is very rugby league-dominated.
"No one really knows about AFL, so it's easy for me to kind of get away from it, which is good as well."
Gulden starred for the Swans' Academy in the NAB League this year, appeared in all four games for the Allies as a bottom-age player in the AFL Under-18 Championships, and snuck in some NEAFL games, too.
Errol Gulden in action for the Allies at the NAB AFL U18 Championships. Picture: AFL Photos
He boasts a neat left foot, a strong work ethic, can play inside or outside midfield roles or even as a forward, and is known for the defensive side of his game.
Gulden also never let being the smallest player in every team he's played in bother him.
"I look at blokes like Caleb Daniel, who my brother played with in the seniors at South Adelaide," he said.
"That was when (Daniel) was 18 and he absolutely dominated the SANFL, then he went late in the draft, and this year if he hadn't got injured he would have been up there for All Australian.
"I really don't see it as a disadvantage. Some people might, but I can't really control what others think. It is what it is, and I just take it in my stride."