AFLNT and Gold Coast SUNS launch the second year of a four-year partnership.
The long-term commitment allows focus on the AFL matches played in the Darwin, female and male talent pathways and supporting growth in the game through the Darwin and Palmerston regions.
“AFLNT are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Gold Coast SUNS into the 2021 AFL season, showcase an AFL game and to collaborate on developing pathways to show off our Territory talent to raise the profile and grow the game,” Head of AFLNT Stuart Totham said.
“We know the Territory produces some amazing players and to provide the opportunity for them to learn and participate in SUNS programs is really exciting.”
“The partnership also builds on the important role the SUNS play in the community by assisting AFLNT grow local footy as well as continuing to provide education and support to local coaches and professional development to AFLNT high-performance staff.”
Gold Coast Chief Executive, Mark Evans, said the SUNS are doing more than just playing an annual game and will promote footy through various local school, community and footy development programs and events.
“This week, SUNS players will visit three Darwin and Palmerston schools and also attend junior and women’s games to support local footy,” he said.
“The SUNS have established talent pathway programs with the AFLNT for men’s and women’s players, we support local coaches and are working on a football-based education program for Darwin schools.
“As part of our talent pathway program, just last weekend Territorian Janet Baird made her debut for the SUNS AFLW side and NT players Malcolm Rosas Jnr and Joel Jeffrey will be hoping to do the same for the club this year in the AFL."
AFLNT are focused on increasing the number of AFL and AFLW players from the NT. Each year of the partnership the SUNS will reserve six spots on their AFLW list for NT players, assuring that the best Territory female footballers have an opportunity to perform at the elite level.
This sits in conjunction with the endorsement the AFL Commission gave for the men that will see Darwin provisioned as a SUNS Academy zone, with the ability for the club to pre-sign players without having to work through the Draft bidding system and getting an increase to 10 players on their rookie list.
The SUNS can also select talented footballers from the NT for available NEAFL (male) and Super Series (female) spots on their playing list.
As part of the agreement with the NTG, the Gold Coast SUNS play one Toyota AFL Premiership game in Darwin per year.
The SUNS believe the club’s second Darwin clash during Sir Doug Nicholls Round will see it consolidate the game into a new showcase event for the AFL.
“This game is going to be huge – we can’t wait to get to Darwin and showcase our exciting young list against a big Victorian club (Hawthorn),” Evans said.
Evans was joined at today’s launch by Territory raised SUNS players Malcolm Rosas Jnr and Joel Jeffrey plus Jy Farrar whose brothers play in Darwin.
“The SUNS have some very talented Indigenous players on our AFL list including the three young men joining me here today who will be itching to play this game in front of family and friends,’ he said.
“There is real potential to build our annual Darwin game into an AFL show-piece clash during Sir Doug Nicholls Round.”
The popularity of last year’s SUNS game in the Top End was overwhelming.
“Territorians love their footy and we can’t wait to host the SUNS again in front of a sure to be sell-out crowd, especially during the Sir Doug Nicholls Round,” Totham said.
“Tickets to last year’s SUNS game at TIO Stadium were in high demand, selling out in a matter of minutes and we expect the same interest this year.”
The support from the NT Government has been instrumental in the Territory partnership and the expected large crowd will bring huge promotional and economic benefits to the NT.
“I want to thank the NT Government for their continued support with this four-year partnership. As we head into the second year, I’m looking forward to the great outcomes we’ll see across Territory footy talent, participation and game development here in Darwin.”
Due to COVID-19, the exact day/time for the Round 11 clash has not yet been announced. Tickets for the game will go on sale when further game details are confirmed.
Supporters can sign up for a Territory SUN membership now which will guarantee entry to the game by visiting: www.aflnt.com.au/news/2020/become-a-territory-sun-member