As Stuart Dew fumes about the reports he is on coaching death-row, there would be one aspect of the next few months that wuld bring a smile to his dial.
Jed Walter will be a Sun in 2024.
The Gold Coast Suns may bein a ton of trouble in 2023. An on-field system that lacks polish, direction, speed and brute force is just one of the issues confronting a team that has once again threatened to make finals, but will likely miss.
The Suns possess a plethora of tall forwards, but (with the exception of Levi Casboult) they lack power and aggression, which I will be diving into further in a later article. It just so happens that one of the three guns the Suns have access to before the 2024 season is Jed Walter – a 195cm key forward that (with all due respect to Harley Reid) I believe is the best player in the draft. Players with the skillset Walter will bring to the table are a rarity. He possesses unmatched aggression and hunger for the contest to go along with a great set of dukes and legitimate dual-side foot skills.
Walter has been compared to Nick Riewoldt for his work rate around the ground and slick movement, however, skill-wise I see him more as a Jonathon Brown/Tom Hawkins type with an extra gear (quite lofty standards I know, but I urge you to watch his utterly dominant showing in the state under 18s for the Allies and make the call yourself). Walter also showcased his skills in contests vs the Port Adelaide and Carlton reserves, continuing to hit the ball with no fear of the bigger AFL bodies
Walter averaged 18 disposals, five marks, three tackles and over four goals per game in the Coates Talent League before beginning his campaign in the state 18s for the (currently unbeaten) Allies. He began against South Australia kicking 3.5 from 17 disposals and nine marks opposed to Hawthorn F/S prospect Will McCabe. The next game, he followed up with eight marks and 3.2 against gun defender Daniel Curtin of WA and finished this weekend with another three goals, five marks and 15 disposals against Vic Metro that will guarantee he will be a two-time All-Australian in the Under-18s.
For all the prowess he possesses with eyes on the ball, the part that impresses me the most while watching him is the hunger and desire he shows in his relentless pursuit of any opponent that has possession. It’s this trait that will offset any adjustments to the AFL system that often makes it harder for key forwards to adapt to more varied defensive and rebound tactics. A key forward that applies pressure is a big rarity in the modern game.
So, feel free to call me nuts in declaring Walter “The Guy” over Harley Reid when it comes to those available in the 2023 draft… however, I must ask you, which type of player is harder to find? There is a very good reason teams fall all over themselves and each other when there is a chance at acquiring a standout key position player.
The reason you’re not hearing as much about him is that he is tied to the Gold Coast Suns via their academy. There will be no race to pick him up – he will be a Gold Coast Suns player starting next season, and will likely move straight into the best 23.
How his impending arrival makes Gold Coast think of their future lineup will be very interesting to monitor, especially with the fact Walter can also be used as a forward line ruckman (another valuable skill). Perhaps the thought of teaming up with another young gun in Walter is just the thing that ensures that Ben King sees the silver lining in the dark cloud forming over the tail end of the Suns’ 2023 season. Or maybe, even if King thinks differently about his future, the loss will not be as great with Walter coming through to ease this pain.
Mark my words, Jed Walter will make an immediate impact and be a force for years to come.
Maybe… just maybe, it will be his presence and competitive spirit that finally pushes the Suns to September action.
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