The Gold Coast Suns have announced they’ll play one game a year in Darwin, as part of a new partnership.
It’s hoped by bringing a premiership game to the city, they can drum up support for the game in its new Academy Zone.
The Gold Coast SUNS will play one Toyota AFL Premiership game in Darwin for four years starting next year.
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As per the AFL Commission’s assistance package, with Darwin provisioned as a SUNS Academy zone, the club has the ability to pre-sign players without having to work through the Draft bidding system and an increase to include 10 players on its rookie list.
The club has also indicated it will look to select talented footballers from the NT for available NEAFL (male) and Super Series (female) spots on their playing list, as well as reserve six spots on their AFLW list for NT players.
It goes beyond the player gains for the SUNS though – with the club looking to build on their important roll in the community.
They’ll assist the AFLNT in the delivery of footy programs, and continue to provide education, professional development and support to local coaches and high-performance staff.
SUNS Chief Executive Mark Evans says he’s excited about the club’s future opportunities.
“We are thrilled to have Darwin confirmed as a Gold Coast SUNS Talent Academy Zone and to highlight our commitment to the region and with thanks to the support of the NT Government and AFL we are pleased to announce that we will play AFL games in Darwin.
“We share AFLNT’s vision of increasing participation and seeing more Northern Territory talent on AFL and AFLW lists and to drive this we have committed to delivering programs and creating pathways to foster talent and develop people,” Evans said.
Northern Territory Minister for Tourism, Sport and Culture, Lauren Moss described the importance of football in the community.
“Footy is a way of life in the Territory, playing a key role in keeping young people on a positive path and supporting stronger communities.
“This new agreement with the AFL will see top-quality games continue to be played in Darwin over the next four years, providing a boost to the local economy as well as supporting strong grassroots footy and clear pathways for Territory players looking to make it at elite levels.
“The SUNS have committed to working with the community to ensure their presence in the NT provides outcomes for the community beyond the games themselves including the roll out of a series of grassroots focused football activities in the region.
Andrew Dillon, the AFL’s General Manager of Game Development said today’s announcement aligned with the AFL’s vision.
“The AFL thanks the NT Government for its support in sharing our vision of giving boys and girls the best opportunity of developing their footy in the Territory, along with helping bring AFL and AFLW matches to every state and territory across the country.”