Under a new agreement with the Northern Territory Government and AFL Northern Territory, the Gold Coast SUNS will move one AFL game to Darwin every season for the next four years, whilst also providing pathways for talented male and female athletes to join the club.
As part of the agreement, which starts in 2020, the Gold Coast SUNS will be heavily focused on growing the game in the clubs newly allocated Academy Zone.
GC SUNS Chief Executive, Mark Evans, said: “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.
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.
“AFLNT’s new player pathways plan aligns with this new agreement and signals a new chapter for Territory footy.
“It will help uncover and develop talent across the Territory, giving aspiring young players more opportunities to play in the AFLW and AFL.
From the 2021 NAB AFLW season, 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 two weeks ago; that 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.
As part of the agreement, 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.
The club will also look to build on the important role it play’s in the community by assisting AFLNT in the delivery of footy programs, as well as continuing to provide education and support to local coaches and professional development to AFLNT high-performance staff.