Leagues: Vfl, NAB League Boys
POSITION: Key Forward/Ruck
SNAPSHOT: "A solidly built tall forward who owns the attacking 50 with his strong frame, clean hands, and booming set shot goalkicking."
Will Bella is the standout tall forward out of the Gold Coast Suns Academy in 2021, presenting as a late option with his readymade frame and forward craft. The strong, 97kg unit will look to make a bit of history come draft time and if selected by the Suns, would join sister Lauren as the first brother-sister duo to be drafted by the same club. Hailing from Mackay, Bella has already made the move south and represented the Suns across multiple levels this season, in their NAB League stint and up in the VFL. His power and goalkicking nous draw comparisons to the likes of Jack Darling and Charlie Dixon, who are very much at home inside forward 50.
+ Clean hands
+ Set shot goalkicking
+ Vertical leap
A lot of Bella's best work is done close to goal, where he owns his space and works into clever spots to earn scoring opportunities. His most obvious feature on paper is his strength, and Bella uses it both in the air and at ground level to hold his place. Whether it be presenting for a mark or bustling through tackles to get a snap away, the 97kg bigman offers plenty of power close to goal.
He hits up well on the lead, too, getting surprisingly good separation and having a handy knack of finding space inside 50. While he ventured up the ground a touch more in his NAB League outing against Dandenong, Bella offered much of his presentation up to the attacking arc against the Brisbane Lions Academy and for Queensland's Under 19s against Tasmania.
With his clean hands helping to grasp the ball with one take, Bella is then able to look towards the big sticks. He strikes the ball beautifully via set shots and has no trouble making the distance from 50 metres out, with that kind of finishing his preferred option. The 18-year-old also doesn't mind manufacturing space for snaps when a little deeper, giving him a dual scoring threat - especially against his peers who he can outbody.
Bella showcased another of his key traits at the Queensland draft combine, registering the equal second best standing vertical jump score (75cm) nationwide. While he does not always use it when hitting up on the lead, it is especially useful when Bella rolls through the ruck. He is a clever hitter at the centre bounces and around the ground, learning the craft well like his elder sibling.
While vertically capable, Bella can work on building his athletic base. He has trimmed down from over 100kg as an under-ager and with the way he plays, the combination of endurance and agility are not prime assets. Improving those mobility elements will make him a more dynamic key position player, though youngsters should always play to their strengths and Bella certainly knows how to do that.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Rookie
With Gold Coast essentially selling away its picks in the National Draft, Bella's most likely route to the Suns will come via the rookie intake. Fellow academy members Bodhi Uwland and Austin Harris will arguably be in contention before him, but the Suns could always do with some ruck-forward depth and going with a home-grown talent like Bella is a handy option to have at such a cost. He has a readymade physical makeup, but can add more dynamism to his game to be a multifaceted tall forward.
NAB League Boys