The Gold Coast Suns enter the new season with a joker up their sleeve they'll be ready to unleash in the year ahead.
Panned by the media for the second straight year for salary dumps, future pick trading and minimal draft presence, the Suns' recruitment team are holding a trump card that seemingly everybody at the card table has forgotten about.
Going into the 2022 trade period, the clear list need for the Suns was an impactful defender who could cover for injured half-backs Lachie Weller, Wil Powell & Connor Budarick, which was to some extent filled by the recruitment of NT junior Ben Long from St Kilda. At the same time, Brisbane recruit Tom Berry was more of an Izak Rankine replacement.
The club then recruited Gippsland Power gun Bailey Humphrey at Pick 6 and passed on later picks to enter the Rookie Draft, where they bolstered their rearguard by picking veterans Connor Blakely and Jake Stein, plus Academy rookie Lloyd Johnston, before belatedly adding Jed Anderson afterwards through the Supplemental Selection Period.
Yet the player to be excited about wasn't added in 2022, rather he was quietly pre-listed as a rookie out of Broadbeach in 2021.
Bodhi Uwland was overlooked by most draft analysts last year because he was a lay down misère for being listed with the Suns through their Academy as a concession pre-listing, thereby not available in the draft.
From childhood dream to reality!
— AFL Queensland (@AFLQ) October 29, 2021
Draft experts rated Uwland as a potential first-round selection prior to the count, with the youngster putting up dominant performances in the NAB League and VFL. In fact, Uwland even drew comparisons to a young Luke Hodge for his defensive acumen.
Respected AFL Talent Ambassador, Kevin Sheehan, had Uwland ranked in the top 25 midfield prospects, of who 21 are now on AFL lists, comparing him to Luke Parker for his strength in the contest and power by foot.
Uwland didn't have a chance to show at the National Championships that he could compete against the best in the country, although he was selected in both COVID cancelled years. He did manage to make the most of his draft season with a pair of dominant outings in the NAB League, along with six VFL appearances and a key role for Broadbeach as they reached the QAFL Grand Final.
Ultimately, work-related back stress fractures kept him out of the season decider, with the injury becoming a major concern as it slowly responded to treatment and the Suns' cautious medical staff redshirted him for 2022.
Uwland is a natural, if somewhat raw, defensive midfielder, which makes him an ideal medium defender given his impressive vertical leap with pack marking capabilities and a penetrating boot that constantly launched rebound attacks for every side he has played for.
In a single draft, the Suns have injected age and experience into a squad that for 12 years had been bottom-heavy with young players, but now has a median age of 24 and only three teenagers out of 47 players.
Uwland might not be a household name amongst draft watchers, but keen-eyed Suns fans have been waiting and watching this Gold Coast born-and-bred product emerge for years, and with comparisons to Hodge and Parker, this kid is the next 'Cool Hand Luke' of the AFL.
Sometimes nuthin' can be a pretty cool hand.