A Collingwood Magpies fan growing up, Queenslander Jake Rogers has discussed how he first got interested in Aussie Rules, his relationship with fellow Gold Coast Suns Academy teammates and what the future holds for him.

The undersized midfielder enters the 2023 National AFL Draft after averaging 26 disposals for the Suns' Academy in the Talent League and earned U18 All-Australian honours after a successful National Championships campaign for the Allies.

A strong 2022 season in the Talent League and National Championships would set a solid foundation for Rogers, who reached great heights this year, including a breakout performance for the AFL Academy against Carlton's VFL side in May.

The team of draft stars notched up a narrow win over the Blues at Marvel Stadium, with Rogers named best-afield for his 26-disposal outing in midfield.

Likened to Suns superstar Touk Miller and Richmond Tigers midfielder Dion Prestia, Rogers is set to go within the top 15 (according to various mock drafts) and has been treated as a first-year AFL player due to excelling in the Academy system and managing three games for the club's VFL side in the 2023 season.

In an exclusive interview with Zero Hanger, Rogers disclosed how his Aussie Rules journey began, with his father playing a major role and becoming his number-one mentor.

"The earliest memory would be probably when I was in Melbourne. I was always around footy with family and stuff, all supporting football, but I think the first memories of me actually playing football was up in the Gold Coast when I was playing with the Broadbeach Cats," he told Zero Hanger.

"As soon as I got into AFL, I was honed in on that, but obviously, coming up to the Gold Coast at that stage, it was probably a bit more rugby league than AFL, so I did a little of rugby league, but it's been predominantly AFL, to be honest.

"My dad played Aussie Rules when he was younger. I think he finished when he was about 19 down in country Victoria, and then my brother played as well with me, but he recently finished up, so it's just me playing now."

Despite being a Collingwood Magpies fan and celebrating their 2023 Grand Final with close to 30 other supporters, Rogers named Gary Ablett as the primary player he looked up to as a child.

"I think growing up, it was Gary Ablett," he stated.

"When he came to the Suns, I sort of moved up, and that's when I really started to invest into football and then cause he was on the Gold Coast, it was sort of just easy to follow him.

"With him being as successful as he was, he sort of became a bit of my idol."

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Away from the footy field, his mentors were his father and his U18s coach in former Port Adelaide half-forward Jarrod Cotton.

"My dad's been a bit of a mentor in teaching me little things about hard work and what it takes, but recently, it probably would be my Under-18s coach, Jarrod Cotton," he added.

"He's probably been a big supporter of me on and off the field, and someone that I look to (and) go to him for anything really."

First selected to be a Gold Coast Suns Academy member at the age of 13, Rogers isn't the only Academy product designated to be chosen by the Suns during the draft.

Considered to be one of the classiest prospects in the 2023 draft class, he is set to be selected alongside Academy teammates Jed Walter and Ethan Read - who are both likely to be picked up within the first ten draft selections.


Having played with Walter since U12s and Read since U14s, the promising youngster detailed his relationship with the duo to Zero Hanger. Not only are the trio close, but their ability to play footy together at a young level will be an added advantage to the Gold Coast Suns.

"Jed was, I think Ethan joined [the Academy] maybe at the 14s or 15s mark but I've played state footy with Jed since I was 12 - played all my juniors with him," he added.

"We're all best mates. Growing up together and playing football together through the Suns Academy, I think we've grown really close together.

"Then obviously this year where we played in all the rep sides together, (and) we travel together, it's hard not to become friends, and we've become really close.

"We probably see each other a fair bit too much, but they've both been really good this year, really supportive people and good mates."

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Rogers was a key piece in the Allies' premiership-winning campaign this year and earned a place in the U18 All-Australian team.

He would also rank among the Suns' best during their limited Talent League campaign, averaging 25.5 disposals (team high), 6.3 tackles (top two) and 4.3 inside 50s (top two) across his four appearances. Rogers also played three games in the VFL for the eventual premiership-winning Suns.

Being a Gold Coast Suns Academy member means his journey has been entirely different to others in his draft class. The midfielder completed last year's pre-season with the club and has regular meetings with the coaches and players at the Suns.

"They allowed me to participate in the pre-season last year to prepare for this year with AFL, so I was in every day doing the session that the AFL players are doing (and) the meeting they're doing," he said.

"Being there every day with them, mingling with them, doing training sessions, eating lunch with them, you sort of get to know them pretty well and create a relationship with most of the players, which is good and the coaches and staff as well.

"I definitely had chats with most of the players and some of the coaches that were there previously. They do give you a little bit of advice, but they sort of treat you as a player as well.

"Jarrod Witts is pretty good," he said on any players that have taken him under his wing.

"Probably not one of the older players, but Noah Anderson. When I went into the midfielder group for the pre-season, he probably took me under his wing a little bit (and) showed me the extras and the little stuff that he does to get better.

"He was definitely one that I took a fine eye to with his work ethic and just all his extras that he does."

Rogers admitted that hard work will always beat talent - a statement he has lived by since he began playing footy. He also revealed this as the best advice that any future player could take on.

"It's always been hard work beats talent," Rogers said.

"You can have all the talent in the world, you can have all the height, you can have all the size, but hard work will always beat that talent that someone else has.

"If you're willing to put in the hard work and willing to go through all the gruelling days and all that sort of stuff to get better, you'll come out on the other end.

"That's something I've stuck by going through my juniors and through the Suns, and it's really helped me in good stead."