BITS Saints Jamie Cunninghame goes high to claim a mark in the match with Gladstone last season.
BITS Saints Jamie Cunninghame goes high to claim a mark in the match with Gladstone last season. Jen Tybell

Young CQ players take next step

IT KEEPS getting better for Central Queensland's young Australian Rules footballers with five set to play in the next stage of the Gold Coast Suns identification and development program.

The players are members of the area's under-18 group and were in camp at Airlie Beach at the weekend, playing in a carnival as part of the next step to recognition.

Of the five, Central Queenslander's Hamish Davidson could count himself a little unlucky as he was ruled out from playing at the carnival after receiving a head knock during play the previous week.

However, Davidson has been performing at a high level and this was recognised with the young Panthers player awarded a position as a squad emergency player for the Suns Academy's next trial match on March 17.

The weekend carnival featured Suns Academy players from country areas with just 11 spots available for the trial against a Gold Coast Suns Academy team from the City.

One player who defied the odds to gain selection was BITS rising star Jamie Cunninghame.

A late inclusion at the carnival after some fine performances for Central Queensland at Bundaberg recently, Cunninghame again showed his potential and will face City this month.

Stephen Mills, another Panthers teenager, continued his climb to the higher levels of the code by also gaining selection.

Glenmore's Luke Saunders hopes to follow the path of another Bulls player, Zac Smith, and he too did the job at the weekend and gained his recognition with selection.

CQ AFL development officer Scott Smithwick is delighted with having four selected at the carnival, especially as they are about to join former Yeppoon player James Royes who currently plays his football out of Southport on the Gold Coast.

Smithwick said a total of five players is a boost to the area.

"It's pretty cut-throat, the under 18s, but our numbers (selected) appear to be increasing," he said.

Smithwick said the Suns Academy had boosted player development in country Queensland.

"It gives (players) two or three steps to show what they can do," he said.

"The (CQ) players not played well and are at the young end of the group."

The current under-18 group is not a "one off" as numbers in the under-16s illustrate - 29 turned up to trial is - proof of the interest in playing representative football.

"(The sport) is gradually gaining in popularity," he said.

Following the Suns Academy game between City and Country at the Gold Coast on March 17, a team will be selected to represent Gold Coast Suns Academy against Brisbane Lions Academy.



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