NORTHERN Rivers-based Gold Coast Suns fans met their favourite players at the Cavanbah Sports Centre, Byron Bay, on Saturday when the elite team took part in an open training session to support grassroots football.
In a jam packed two-hour morning session, young and aspiring AFL footballers has their photos taken with players and tried out the Suns' new kicking radar, to see how fast their kicks were.
Tweed Coast Tigers junior, Charlie Elliot, 12, donned a Suns uniform and travelled to the open training session from Casuarina.
Charlie said it was "a lot of fun” to get players' autographs, including one from Tweed Heads-based player Jesse Joyce, who joined the Suns in 2016 after two years in the Gold Coast Suns academy.
Charlie was one of several juniors to hear from recently drafted Suns rookies after the open training session, when the players gave advice to aspiring elites.
Players including Jacob Dawson, 18, gave youngsters advice on how to "follow their dreams” in the game, and answered questions such as "have you ever won a final?”
For Dawson, the grassroots community day was an important first professional appearance in NSW, during the Suns' busy pre-season calender.
Dawson was one of four Gold Coast Suns academy graduates drafted onto the 2018 senior rookie list, having joined the development academy in 2013.
"I remember when I was younger, even last year, I loved seeing all the Suns boys and getting their autograph, I used get all the photos,” he said.
"I got photos with Gaz (superstar player Gary Ablett) when I was 12-years-old.
"I love it and I think it's so important to get out to the community and help grow the game and help grow the supporter base.”
The inside midfielder hopes to one day become a role model for the other players who remain in the development academy program.
"Hopefully I can work my way up into the seniors list and get an opportunity,” Dawson said.
"If not, I'll just put my head down and work really hard and play the footy I can in the meantime.”
It's been quite the year for Dawson, whose accolades in 2017 include a NEAFL Rising Star nomination and QAFL Premiership win with Palm Beach Currumbin.
For other players aspiring to play at an elite level, Dawson's parting words were "you can only control what you can.”
"You can't control everything, last year I probably didn't get to play in all the teams I wanted to,” he said.
"But if you keep working hard you'll eventually get to where you want to get to, and for me it's here at Suns.”
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