Gold Coast Suns won’t rise for a while yet

Vince Rugari Columnist

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    They say a watched pot never boils. In that case, the Gold Coast Suns will be hoping they fly straight under the radar in their sophomore year in the AFL.

    Nobody expects the tourist strip side to ‘boil’ straight away and become the flag contenders they are bound to be. But they’d be wanting to warm up pretty quickly, because the 2012 campaign so far has not gone according to plan.

    Following a NAB Cup campaign which coach Guy McKenna admitted was well below par, the Suns provided little resistance to pre-season premiers Adelaide in a 69-point loss at home on Saturday to start the real season.

    After splashing out on a high-altitude training camp in Arizona over the summer, the club has focused on improving their in-game consistency – playing all four quarters without any costly lapses of concentration or application.

    Gold Coast’s structure fell to pieces during Adelaide’s relentless first term raid and failed to recover. Gary Ablett said the team acted too slow in changing things up in midfield, and by the time they did the game was over.

    But it was another line in the post-match press conference that caught my attention. McKenna was searching for a positive that came out of their round one defeat, and landed on this.

    “If we finished 46 disposals down last year, I reckon a 69-point loss would probably have been a 119-point loss. That’s as positive a spin I could put on that,” he said. It was a throwaway line, but I was intrigued to see if that was actually true.

    He was trying to show some evidence that the Suns have improved, even if their defeat had all the hallmarks of the routine spankings they were handed by teams last year. It just made sense at the time.

    McKenna meant to say 44 disposals – the Crows had 408 to his side’s 362. But if they had played the same game last season, he argued the losing margin would have been somewhere in the three-digit range because they are a better side now than they were back then.

    Was he onto something? Look back to Gold Coast’s last match against Adelaide – it was at the same venue in Round 22 last year, when the Crows won by 61 points.

    The disposal stats did not go along with his hypothesis. Last year, the Crows had 433 disposals to their 373 – a difference of 60 disposals, more than on this past Saturday.

    So was the losing margin greater? No. In fact, it was less. That suggests that, concurring with their disappointing pre-season, the improvement is not there yet.

    The Suns are good, but green. Those traits that separate premiership sides from the also-rans – teamwork, understanding, endurance, discipline – take years to develop.

    That is the reason why they lost to the Crows in the manner that they did. It’s why so many of those massive defeats occurred in 2011.

    There is an anticipation that they will get better this year – and they will. But to do that, the cream of the young crop – the likes of Dion Prestia, Tom Lynch, Steven May, Brandon Matera, Josh Caddy, David Swallow and more – have to stand up immediately.

    The Suns are a beacon of hope in the professional sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast, which is a fickle and impatient city. Once the locals start to ignore you it’s hard to get their attention back.

    To keep it, the Gold Coast must start showing the reasons why fans should continue to pay money to watch a work in progress at Metricon Stadium.

    It’s coming together – just a little slower than maybe the club themselves might have anticipated.

    Vince Rugari
    Vince Rugari

    Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for Australian Associate Press