Jack Leslie is looking forward to the Suns' foray into China.
Jack Leslie is looking forward to the Suns' foray into China. Chris Hyde

No China crisis for Gold Coast defender

AFL: Armed with his own pillow and a Mandarin phrase book, young Gold Coast defender Jack Leslie is happily taking Aussie rules to China.

The 22-year-old has flown out of the country with the rest of the Suns, bound for Shanghai where they will take on Port Adelaide on Sunday in the first game for premiership points outside of Australia and New Zealand.

Despite the fixture attracting its share of negativity due to perceived harmful weather conditions - such as air quality - and long travel times, Leslie said he and his teammates had embraced the concept.

"Around the playing group there hasn't been any negativity at all," Leslie told News Regional Media.

"Everyone's pretty excited to be going over.

"The club just reiterates that it's part of the bigger picture ... trying to tap into the Chinese market.

"If the AFL does get in there, it will grow massively with sponsorship and all that sort of thing."

Leslie is in the frame to play just his 12th senior game at the Jiangwan Sports Centre.

"It was weird... no one could actually picture it," he said of playing in China.

"I know its clichéd, but everyone was taking it one week at a time

"Then a few weeks ago we all started doing our visa applications and we thought 'sh..t we're really going over'."


Jack Leslie spoils North Melbourne forward Ben Brown.
Jack Leslie spoils North Melbourne forward Ben Brown. Scott Barbour/AFL Media

Leslie said the Suns had been briefed on spending four days in the bustling Chinese city - and avoid any 'international incident'.

"We've got a little booklet, just with some little sayings like 'thank you' and 'hello', pretty much all the basics," he said. "But, I haven't got too much Mandarin in me I don't think.

"They pretty much said stick to the main streets - where we are in the district is pretty good. It's just the back streets, that's where it starts to get pretty shady

"And just before careful with all the food. I think they've got it all pretty sorted at the hotel - they've got a good food bill coming up - we'll just eat there."

Leslie and his teammates will spent most of today in transit, flying out from Brisbane this morning, and then catching a connecting flight from Singapore this afternoon.

Despite his 198cm frame Leslie was stuck back in economy class, while fellow talls Rory Thompson, Jarrod Witts, Peter Wright, Tom Lynch and Steven May, and superstar Gary Ablett flew business.

"A few of us boys got exit seats," he said, adding he packed his "own pillow".

Aside from the marketing factor, it is a pivotal game for both the Power (at 4-3) and the Suns (3-4).

And Leslie could have a big role to play after finally stringing some senior games together in his fourth season in the system since being drafted from Gippsland in Victoria.

After Achilles and ankle injuries curbed his 2015 and 2016 campaigns, he was suddenly thrust into the No.1 tall defender role when Steven May (hamstring) and Rory Thompson (quad) were sidelined earlier this year.

All three may be available on Sunday - and needed - against a Power forwardline that includes ex-Sun Charlie Dixon, Jackson Trengove and Justin Westhoff.

Leslie reads the game well.

"Coming across with an intercept mark or spoil, that's what I pride my game on," he said.

He showed his shut-down ability when keeping Adelaide skipper Taylor Walker to two goals in round five.

"I'm just trying to keep my body right," he said.

"Every game I'm getting more and more experience. That's the most important thing."

Whether its Carrara, the MCG or Shanghai, the boy from Sale will just be happy to be out there.

News Corp Australia

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