By Ant Wingard
Queensland’s first debutant of 2020 will be unearthed this weekend when Gold Coast host Port Adelaide at Metricon Stadium in Round 1.
Connor Budarick will don the red and gold for the first time in the teams’ season opener this Saturday afternoon.
He’ll be one of three new faces to debut in the red and gold alongside prized draftees Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson.
But unlike Rowell and Anderson, Budarick’s path to land on Gold Coast’s playing list was completely unique.
It was a fate he shares with only two others, teammates Matt Conroy and Malcolm Roasas Jr., all of which were afforded spots as a Category A rookie under the AFL’s concessions handed to the SUNS.
And while Budarick described the comfort of knowing where he would be playing his football prior to the draft,
“Growing up, you always want to go through the draft process but then to have it almost a certainty that you’re going to be at a club it a bit of a relief,” Budarick told aflq.com.au.
“Obviously it would have been nice to sit down on draft night and wait for your name to get called out but now, not actually being in the draft night because I would have been very scared.
“Not having to worry about that stress was good.”
Instead, when draft night rolled around, the stress was replaced with sheer excitement.
“It was more about seeing who my new teammates were going to be. That was the exciting element of it.”
His preselection meant Budarick was able to join his new teammates four weeks earlier than the entire draft crop of 2019 but even then, the Labrador junior was already ahead of the eight ball.
As an Academy player, Budarick was able to spend the 2019 preseason training with the team. From that, he had already got to know the players, coaches and game plan, and spent a lot of time at the club.
“It’s been a very easy transition,” he said.
In it’s entirety, it’s fitting that Budarick will make his AFL debut this weekend. After all, Budarick was Queensland’s best Under 18 talent in 2019.
He was the lone Queenslanders to be named in the All Australian team at the NAB AFL Under 18 National Championships and was also named the Harrison Meddalist after being judged the best and fairest player in the NAB AFL Under 18 Academy Series.
The SUNS’ draft crop of 2019 was a big haul for the club who are hoping to improve on their three wins last season. And with the young brigade including Rowell, Anderson and Budarick, it’s easy to see why.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the draft crop this year.”
Image: Chris Hyde/AFL Photos