The demise of the Gold Coast Suns
Like many, I thought the beginning of the Gold Coast Suns was going to be the start of something special.
From the moment they took the field against Carlton they had a team of promising youngsters with a sprinkling of experienced stars, led by Gary Ablett.
After being blown off the park in their first three games, they came back from 40 points down to beat Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium, to record the first win in their history by 3 points.
Just two weeks later, they took down their closest rivals, the Brisbane Lions, in the first Q Clash by seven points. Two good wins either side of letting through 15 goals to Essendon in the first quarter on the way to a 139 point smashing at Etihad Stadium.
So much talent was on display, yet it only yielded one more win for the year, against Richmond at Cazaly Stadium in Cairns, the last place you would expect to find an AFL match being played.
Fast forward to 2012, they were in search of improvement, mainly to be competitive in more games. But they are fast gaining a reputation for second half fade-outs. In front or behind by a couple of points at half time has resulted in a 50 point plus loss almost every time.
But by far the lowest point of their season so far was their humiliating 26 point loss to Greater Western Sydney, a side who they were expected to beat convincingly and the first time they have gone into a game as the favourite.
Conceding the last five goals of the game, including four in the last five minutes, put the pressure right on the Suns, who were expected to continue their development from the previous year. As the season has progressed, it is clear that the suns have an unhealthy reliance on Gary Ablett, a man who puts in everything for this club.
This reliance became evident against Collingwood in round 10, where Ablett racked up an equal record 53 possessions. Normally, a feat such as this would be praised, especially considering that the suns lost the match by 97 points.
But it is because he was the only person who put up any resistance this has been criticised. No disrespect to Gary Ablett, but if you have 53 possessions in a second year side, it shows that there is such a reliance on him, to the point where if he doesn’t play there is no resistance at all.
It is fair to say that Gary is one of the only players who are pulling their own weight at the Suns. Their recruiting of experienced players has been disastrous. Jared Brennan, Campbell Brown, Josh Fraser, Jarrod Harbrow and Michael Rischitelli are all either struggling with injury and/or form, and Daniel Harris and Nathan Krakouer have both retired.
With the obvious exception of Ablett, Sam Iles and Danny Stanley are the two experienced players who they have got right. The two played 7 and 5 games respectively for Collingwood and are both forging solid careers.
Nathan Bock had been a success until he broken his leg. Of last year’s recruiting, they picked up experienced duo Matthew Warnock and Andrew McQualter, both honest competitors but neither showing great form this year.
Where has all their great first year talent gone – nowhere. Of all the talented youngsters, you can say only 3 have kicked on from last year. Harley Bennell is a young star, Josh Caddy is over his injuries and when David Swallow returns from injury, he will continue his good form from last year.
Gold Coast’s current losing streak currently stands at 20, stretching back to their round 17 win against Richmond last year. Looking forward this year, with nine rounds to go, the only games where they should stand a possible chance are against Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney in Rounds 19 and 20.
Unless anything changes, they look set to become the first team since Fitzroy in 1964 to go winless through an AFL season.
As they prepare for this Sunday’s game against Geelong, which will certainly result in a massive win to the Cats, Gary Ablett must surely ask himself the question – Why did I leave Geelong?
As a Collingwood supporter it pains me to say this, but if Gary was playing in last year’s decider, the end result would have been greater, he could have had a Norm Smith Medal, and another Brownlow.
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