GOLD Coast expects to be further bolstered in its bid for a maiden finals berth later this season, with the club's highly rated former first-round pick Elijah Hollands closing on a long-awaited AFL debut.
Hollands was taken by the Suns with pick No.7 in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, but has missed a significant period of football after rupturing his ACL in the early parts of his final junior season.
However, the precociously talented 189cm youngster has enjoyed a strong start to the VFL campaign, with his versatility playing as a ball-winning mid-forward putting him in the frame to play senior football later this year.
Speaking from Gold Coast's hotel in Darwin before the side's clash with North Melbourne last weekend, Suns footy boss Wayne Campbell revealed that Hollands is edging ever closer to an AFL debut.
"He's really knocking on the door. We'd like to get him in soon. He's playing really good footy and he's got the attributes to play AFL footy," Campbell told AFL.com.au.
"He's missed some footy, just with the COVID-19 year and obviously with his knee. It's almost like he's a first-year player. But he's putting his name up there.
"In some ways, you say you'd like to have him in there. But that would mean someone is injured or out of form and that doesn't sound right. But we'll see him pretty soon, I would think."
Hollands continued his impressive VFL stint with 20 disposals and a goal in Sunday's reserves victory over Collingwood, continuing a campaign where he has averaged 22.9 touches, 5.0 marks and 3.9 tackles per game.
Once considered a potential No.1 pick candidate in his draft year, before rupturing his ACL in March of that season, Hollands has taken significant strides recently in his recovery from his long-term injury.
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Able to play as a big-bodied and long-kicking midfield option, with the size, athleticism and creativity to also play forward, Gold Coast is now working through ways to fit Hollands into its ever-improving AFL team.
"We're reasonably strong in the midfield, but also the forwards are doing their job at the moment. He can play wing as well. He's got an elite endurance base, so he can do that. He kicks it pretty well. He could certainly play on a wing," Campbell said.
"He can absolutely play as an inside midfielder, but we've also got some guys in there that are going OK. He could play as a high half-forward because of his running ability and his ability to kick it inside 50.
"I've given you every single position other than the backline, but he could probably play half-back if he wanted to as well. Sometimes you just need to get those sorts of blokes in. You get them on the bus and you work out where their seat is afterwards."
Meanwhile, Gold Coast's star young forward Ben King is also tracking well in his recovery from a long-term knee injury after rupturing his own ACL on the eve of the season in February.
King, who kicked 47 goals in a breakout season last year, will miss the entirety of the campaign but is still having an off-field impact for the Suns while diligently completing his recovery work.
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"He's tracking really well," Campbell said.
"Honestly, from within 24 hours of him doing it … let's be honest, we were all a little bit down and out. We tried to put on a positive face, but we were towed along by him. From the moment he did it, he knew what he needed to do and he got on with it.
"He's attacked his rehab really well. But, probably just as importantly, he's been a really positive influence on the place. He's always up and about and smiling and wants to be a part of it."
New recruits Mabior Chol (24 goals) and Levi Casboult (21 goals) have performed strongly in King's absence, with Gold Coast looking forward to what the trio can achieve together next season.
"Ben will come back through the VFL … that's a joke," Campbell laughed.
"Teams can play three talls. We had Jack Lukosius down there, but he's not absolutely a tall forward. We'll find a way, I'm sure we'll find a way to fit him in."