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The Draft – Bright prospect could have Suns shining again

Luke Davies-Uniacke, the type of player who could help drag Gold Coast to a brighter place than many have tipped for the Suns. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Draft – Bright prospect could have Suns shining again

Bede Briscomb    

Trade period is a time when even poorly-performed AFL clubs can afford a little optimism about the season ahead. Well, most of them.

In the minds of many seasoned football observers, the prognosis for Gold Coast remains grim, even after the appointment of new coach Stuart Dew. Take, for example, the comments of Terry Wallace during the week.

“They have sold less hope than any other club in the AFL,” Wallace said.

“This game is brutal, and teams must be tough and strong to win their own footy and disciplined enough in the efforts and structure to pressure the opposition. The Gold Coast either don’t, or can’t, do that.”

With four-time best and fairest winner Gary Ablett set to leave the club, things could get even worse.

But there’s one kid in the upcoming AFL draft that can help the Suns, who have the No.2 pick, turn things around. Enter Luke Davies-Uniacke (pronounced u-nee-ack).

At 187 centimetres and 85 kilograms, the big-bodied midfielder averaged 24 disposals at 73% disposal efficiency, one goal, four marks and three tackles in the 2017 TAC Cup for Dandenong Stingrays.

And according to AFL Talent and Development Manager Kevin Sheehan, Davies-Uniacke is capable of doing that in an AFL senior environment right now.

“I’d bring it back to a game that was played at Etihad Stadium, where the Under 18s played against the VFL team Northern Blues,” Sheahan says.

“The kids played against a dozen or so AFL-listed players and Luke Davies-Uniacke was very good in that game. He showed his ball-winning ability out of the midfield, he set the play up and used it really, really well. He’s strong in the body, attacks the ball, is fearless and skilful.”

Davies-Uniacke has an excellent endurance base and covers the ground with a cruising speed akin to Scott Pendlebury. He may not have the silk of the Collingwood great yet (who does?) but he plays with a poised game sense that would suggest one day he might.

And perhaps the most tantalising aspect of the Dandenong Stingray is his potency as a goal kicker.

“I think I’ve modelled my game after Nat Fyfe,” Davies-Uniacke tells Footyology. “I like to go up forward and jump at the ball. I want to be that versatile kind of player.”

He’s also a complete midfielder – a rarity in this year’s draft class and, according to Wallace, on Gold Coast’s list.

“I’m always aiming to get the right balance of contested possessions and uncontested possessions,” Davies-Uniacke says.

“When I played against Eastern [Ranges] I had 33 touches and 21 contested, so that’s what I love seeing, just that good balance. And also just having a good mix of tackles and clearances.”

Many AFL scouts will tell you the intangibles of a footballer are just as important as the on-field attributes. Well, Davies-Uniacke ticks most boxes there, too.

Listening to the 18-year-old speak is like listening to a young Lenny Hayes: he emphasises respect in almost every interview he gives.

“My first priority will be to earn the respect [of teammates and coaches]”, Davies-Uniacke stressed at the AFL Draft Combine.

“It’s like [Rising Star winner] Andrew McGrath last year,” Sheehan tells Footyology. “He wants to start by earning respect. That’s a great starting point for any young man; a great mindset to have as you go into a club and try to earn your stripes.

With a handsome head on his shoulders, Davies-Uniacke is marketable.

He’s the type of rooster you slap on billboards and membership campaigns to get the turnstiles ticking over. For the AFL team that comfortably sits dead last in attendance, it’s all the more reason to draft him.

As a junior, people sometimes questioned Davies-Uniacke’s commitment to the game. “They say: ‘Do you love football? Is it what you really want to do’?” he told the AFL website’s Callum Twomey in July.

“And I say it definitely is. I always say that surfing is one of those laid-back things I do in my off time. I think there may be a perception I’m too laid back, but that’s just the lifestyle I live coming from Rye.”

The Suns face a lot of growing pains in the future, something that may heap stress on their young playing group, which is all the more reason to take a level-headed guy like Davies-Uniacke.

On paper, Gold Coast’s list isn’t a complete disaster, it’s just extremely young and light on midfielders.

Pick four in last year’s AFL draft Ben Ainsworth is a Jamie Elliot clone, silky runners Jack Martin and Kade Kolodjasnij will provide plenty of class, David Swallow, Aaron Hall and Jarryd Lyons are about to hit their prime, “two-metre” Peter Wright is a top five prospect under 22 and co-captains Tom Lynch and Steven May are both elite at their position.

The Suns will also get another pre-season into Jack Scrimshaw, Jack Bowes and Will Brodie, plus a few nice picks (or players) for Adam Saad and Ablett.

They also have Dew, a two-time premiership player known for his toughness and skill on the field and, as a coach, according to Gold Coast chief executive Mark Evans, an ability to “band [people] together to chase down success”.

That leadership in the box, in tandem with the future leadership of a prospect as good as Davies-Uniacke on the field, would certainly see Gold Coast start heading in the right direction.

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