Stars shine at Suns Academy

THE Northern Rivers may be rugby heartland but Aussie rules has staked a claim with some of the most talented young footy players gaining selection in the 2020 intake for the prestigious AFL Gold Coast Suns Academy.

The Ballina Bombers kicked a massive goal with six of their players being selected.

Club junior president Tony Bazzana said they are proud of James Buchanan and Bede Francis chosen for the U13 Male, Blake McQueen in the U14 Male and Jack Atkins, Joseph Bull and Tom Grimister in the U15 Male squads.

“It’s a real testament to the players, coaches and club,” he said.

“We are super-excited about their selection as these boys have been playing since the U8s, they have developed into great representative players and to see them get to this stage is fantastic.”

Bede, 12, said he’s stoked he mate James made selection.

The young midfielder who was selected for the NSW Primary Schools Sports Association AFL State Carnival in 2019 and won Man of the Match last year in the U12 grand final beating the Byron Magpies, was full of beans.

“It’s a great opportunity to join the academy and get professional training from elite players and coaches,” he said.

“To be able to take my footy to the next level by being part of the Suns Academy is very exciting.”

Bazzana said Jack Atkins set a junior club record by playing 159 games wearing the red and black jumper.

“Jack and Tom have now moved to playing on the Gold Coast but we are proud they got their start at the Ballina bombers,” he said.

Meanwhile, two Lismore Swans alumni Jai Leach and Sacha Alexeef made the U13 and U14 team respectively.

And two players from the Byron Magpies, Spencer Alcock and Giles Hannon were also chosen for the U15 Male squad.

The Magpies congratulated former players Jade Rettenmaier (U15 Girls), Oliver Rojo, Flynn Petersons, and Riley Buckland (U18 Boys) who made Suns Academy Squads.

According to AFL Queensland, there were also quite a few more Northern Rivers players selected that live in the area but played with other clubs including Tweed and Coolangatta.