2017 AFL preview series: Gold Coast Suns – 12th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    The Gold Coast Suns have been in the Australian Football League for six seasons now, and have thus far failed to have any meaningful influence on the football landscape outside the exploits of individuals like Gary Ablett and Tom Lynch.

    In fact, the Suns’ most positive impact on the competition has been as a talent farm for other clubs to harvest – looking at the list from Gold Coast’s first year, players like Dion Prestia, Zac Smith, Harley Bennell, Mav Weller, Nathan Krakouer, Charlie Dixon, Josh Caddy and Tom Hickey have moved onto other clubs, where they have found varying degrees of success. The exquisitely talented Jaegar O’Meara has also come and gone since then.

    However, last year saw the Suns receive the lucrative bounty of four top-ten draft picks. As far as they are concerned, the past is another country. The future starts now.

    Gold Coast Suns’ best 22

    B Jarrod Harbrow Rory Thompson Kade Kolodjashnij
    HB Adam Saad Steven May Jack Martin
    C Aaron Hall Gary Ablett Pearce Hanley
    HF Touk Miller Tom Lynch Will Brodie
    F Jack Bowes Peter Wright Ben Ainsworth
    Foll Tom Nicholls Jarryd Lyons David Swallow
    Int Michael Barlow Callum Ah Chee Brayden Fiorini Alex Sexton

    Emergencies: Jarrod Witts, Matt Rosa, Brandon Matera

    Gold Coast’s best season was 2014, when they won ten games and looked good doing it. They were sitting inside the top eight after 16 rounds, and had been playing in a manner that suggested their rise would continue.

    Alas, Gary Ablett went down, and he and the club have never recovered. After winning ten games in 2014, they won only ten games combined across 2015-16 after Rodney Eade replaced the guillotined Guy McKenna. Ablett has played 20 of the last 50 matches, but hasn’t been able to recapture the consistency of his best form.

    Suns player Gary Ablett takes on Kangaroos

    Relieving Ablett of the captaincy, something he was never a natural fit for, will hopefully free him up to focus on doing what he does best – winning the ball, weaving in and out of traffic, evading would-be tacklers, disposing with poise, and hitting the scoreboard regularly.

    Pearce Hanley, Michael Barlow and Jarryd Lyons were recruited over the off-season to add experience and depth to the Gold Coast midfield. The beauty of this trio is they all bring different strengths – Hanley will break the lines on the outside, Barlow will help bullock and get first hands at the stoppages, while Lyons has an all-round game whose creativity will be welcomed in the front half.

    Aaron Hall loves to run free, and should be allowed to do so. Touk Miller has shown he has what it takes to be a very good player, and provides another inside option for Eade. Within a year or two, he’s going to be one of those ‘he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves from the Victorian media’ players. David Swallow will be welcomed back, and all of a sudden the Suns look to have much better balance through the middle.

    The midfield will be driving the ball to a forward line led by Tom Lynch, who now has legitimate claims of being in the top handful of players in the competition. All but unstoppable in the air and able to cover enormous ground, he beats his opponents with work ethic, talent and power.

    Peter Wright is developing beautifully alongside Lynch, and has already had more impact across his first 20 games than any two-metre-tall young forward has any right to. Sam Day had been slowly coming of age, and will be missed as a flexible swinging tall.

    Brandon Matera and Callum Ah Chee are the most likely small forwards, who will look to feed off what crumbs there are from Lynch and Wright, and also apply pressure on opposition defences.

    All of Gold Coast’s top-ten picks from last year’s draft will be looking to play 16-plus games, and most will swing through the forward-line at some stage, particularly Ben Ainsworth, Jack Bowes and Will Brodie.

    Run from defence, such a cornerstone of the modern game, shouldn’t be an issue for the Suns.

    Jarrod Harbrow is the experienced hand, and will be forced to lock down more than he has in the past. Kade Kolodjashnij is coming off a disappointing year and must keep up his concentration and focus – he looks like he kicks the ball better than he actually does, and is prone to too many lapses.

    Adam Saad is electric with ball in hand, while Jack Martin is poised to take the next step and should be elevating his game now. Being off-Broadway, he has escaped more scrutiny than he probably should have, but has oodles of talent and should be taking a key role. He can be backed in to deliver.

    Steven May is one of the best key defenders in the competition, and is ready to go up a level as co-captain with Tom Lynch. His poleaxing of Stef Martin last year was one of the great moments of 2016, and shows he’s made of the right stuff. Rory Thompson rides shotgun, and keeping him fit and healthy is a priority for the club’s medical staff.

    On paper, and hopefully on the field, the Suns possess an exciting blend of experience and youth which all look to complement each other. They would love to be playing the sort of football that makes it hard for Michael Rischitelli to break into the side when he returns from his ACL at some stage.

    They’ll also be looking for players like Matt Rosa, Matt Shaw, Jesse Lonergan to be forced out. Tom Nichols has had the inside running on the number one ruck spot for a couple of years now, but Jarrod Witts should be piling the pressure on, and may even claim it by Round 1.

    Gold Coast were showing positive enough signs in the second half of last year that they could move up the ladder this season. At the least, they should be attacking the competition with a healthier and more rounded list than before.

    The aim should be to play with dash and flair, show some resilience when things aren’t going their way, and get as many games into the young talent time as they can. Finals are a realistic ambition, but matching their previous best of a ten win season will be the internal pass mark.

    The Suns, at long last, might be rising.

    Predicted ladder spread: 10th-13th

    Predicted finish: 12th

    Best and fairest: Tom Lynch

    Leading goalkicker: Tom Lynch

    All-Australian potential: Gary Ablett, Tom Lynch, Steven May

    Rising Star candidates: Ben Ainsworth, Jack Bowes, Will Brodie, Brayden Fiorini

    Cam Rose’s AFL preview series ladder

    12th – Gold Coast
    13th – Port Adelaide
    14th – Fremantle
    15th – Essendon
    16th – North Melbourne
    17th – Carlton
    18th – Brisbane

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • March 7th 2017 @ 8:29am
      DH said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      Every year it looks like the Suns will put it together and every year something goes horribly wrong.

      Let’s hope this is the year.

      • Columnist

        March 7th 2017 @ 2:03pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

        Yep, every year we hope we get to see the best of their talent.

    • March 7th 2017 @ 8:42am
      Birdman said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      I feel Rocket is a problem for the Suns as his match day nous isn;t what it once was with the Dogs and Swans.

      Yesterday’s man I think.

      • Columnist

        March 7th 2017 @ 2:03pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

        It’s hard to say, given how injury-prone so many of his players have been.

    • Roar Guru

      March 7th 2017 @ 8:49am
      DingoGray said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Cam,

      My question is in relation to Jack Martin? I thought he was more forward than back?

      I understand Suns have quite a few small forward types, but I think Martin is their best one.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 9:55am
        Stewie said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        Yeah, Suns have horribly mismanaged Jack Martin. Was touted as one of the best juniors in a while, but they have been throwing him in all areas of the ground without letting him settle and specialise in a particular position. He’s the definition of a Jack (lol) of all trades, master of none. Where is his best position? Who knows.

        • Roar Guru

          March 7th 2017 @ 10:48am
          SportsFanGC said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

          He should be played forward of centre for mine. He can do far more damage there than playing in the backline, where they have ample numbers already for a guy of his size.

          • Columnist

            March 7th 2017 @ 2:07pm
            Cameron Rose said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

            In reply to Dingo, Martin actually spent more time back than forward last year, and from what I saw in the JLT he seemed to be running off half-back as well.

            Personally, I think he will be a very good player anywhere, but I’d agree that GC seem to have more natural half-backs than natural half-forwards, so he’s probably more required there.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 2:30pm
              George said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

              Pretty close best 22. Martin and Ablett will start F. Both rotating a bit through midfield. Nichols is number 3 ruck at the moment. Witts will probably start round 1. I actually suspect Currie has a great potential if given opportunity (he played just 6-7 games). Matera not even close to best 22. Probably gone next year. First time ever Suns have great depth. A lot of good things happened last 2 years; great recruitment, culture fixed, new captains (Ablett should never be a captain), high performance (Cordy), new facilities. Let’s see if Eade can coach. I thinks he can. Only way up. Suns just need a reasonable run with injuries and I am optimistic. But then Sam Day is already gone. I feel sorry for Sam. He was coming of age.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 2:37pm
          George said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

          Martin played HB last year because Suns were decimated with injuries. He actually started last year in HF and scored e.g. 4 goals against Fremantle. He got sometimes cold in F as there was very limited supply. I would love to see him play a bit midfield because of his great contest. But he still does not have fully built body for it. I agree with Eade, we need to clone Martin, one for defence, one for midfield and one for F.

    • Roar Guru

      March 7th 2017 @ 10:47am
      SportsFanGC said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      Cam that 22 is pretty close to the mark of how I see the Suns lining up for Round 1 – barring any injuries between now and then.

      They are an intriguing prospect for 2017 and literally everything hinges on having a consistent team running out on a weekly basis, something which has not happened since early to mid-2014.

      I particularly agree with the line that players such as Rosa and Shaw should be pushed out by younger more talented players, however I think Lonergan has plenty to give as a pure inside mid. His disposal by foot is deplorable so if they can simply use his size to win clearances and distribute by hand to more silky players that works for me.

      Rischitelli should be made to work for a place in that 22 when fit and should not be considered a walk-up start.

      Brandon Matera is the other that I feel needs to show something in the NEAFL rather than being granted a Round 1 spot. Has not done enough throughout his career as a small forward and now finds ample competition in Bowes, Ainsworth, Ah Chee, Ablett and Martin.

      There are quite a few players that have a point to prove after very disappointing seasons in 2016 and I think that Kade Kolodjashnij arguably exemplifies that position more than just about any player on the list. He has talent in spades, is an elite runner and hopefully with a stronger match day squad we will see him produce some quality from the back half of the ground.

      You can write it down the Witts is currently first choice ruck and Currie is probably second choice due to their very impressive pre-seasons. Nicholls has been injured is coming from a long way back to command a place in the Seniors – plenty of early season NEAFL for him to find fitness and form and then hopefully pressure Witts.

      Of the draftees only Jack Srimshaw won’t see as much game time as the others – maybe 6-8 games I think. He has struggled a bit during the pre-season from what I understand and probably needs to add a good amount of weight if they are considering running him out of the backline in the early part of his career.

      Rocket has essentially 2017 to show he can actually coach this team otherwise I expect to see a new Coach in 2018.

      • Columnist

        March 7th 2017 @ 2:18pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

        All good observations.

        Yeah, I left Matera out for the same reasons as you – he’s been a disappointment overall in his career. KK was poor last year, and must deliver more.

        Definitely a big year for Eade, and even if he is crippled by injury again, I think they will probably make a change in the view of making a fresh start. The next coach in could do a Luke Beveridge with this squad.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 2:51pm
          George said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

          Agree on KK. He better improve or young guns will jump ahead of him.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 2:48pm
        George said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

        I believe Jack Scrimshaw had a history of injuries and Suns build his physical base slowly to be up to AFL standard. Jack will get opportunity probably in the second half of the season. According to some analysts he is the most talented of Suns recruits. That would be a treat considering Bowes, Brodie and Anisworth showed flashes of brilliance. In the end, Scrimshaw would like to play in midfield. Considering he’s 193 cm, he could be Suns version of Bontempelli – I wish 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          March 7th 2017 @ 3:08pm
          SportsFanGC said | March 7th 2017 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

          Hi George – that is my understanding with Scrimshaw as well. He is probably starting further back from a physical build perspective compared with say Brodie and Ainsworth who have arrived essentially ready to go for Round 1.

          I suspect that the main aim this year and possibly even next year will be to build his size/strength in the gym while getting plenty of game time in the NEAFL with occasional appearances in the AFL. Season 2019 is when I think he will be ready for regular Senior footy.

    • March 7th 2017 @ 12:22pm
      Mickyo said | March 7th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

      If all goes well could be finals bound.

      • Columnist

        March 7th 2017 @ 2:07pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

        I think they have a sneaky case for it.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 7th 2017 @ 2:46pm
        Sam Bunn said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

        Agreed, that best 22 looks impressive, we just never get to see it on a consistent basis unfortunately. Very competitive year for spots in the bottom half of the 8 though

    • Roar Guru

      March 7th 2017 @ 12:24pm
      Pumping Dougie said | March 7th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

      Gold Coast’s progress has been cruelled by injury beyond reasonableness. The players poached by other clubs have all been replaced by exciting young draft prospects, with O’Meara the only one they are likely to regret. Injury-free for the first time in years, they have a tantalising spine, decent onball brigade and depth across all positions, albeit still young and developing.

      I think the only thing holding Gold Coast back in recent years was injuries to their whole midfield and a poor club culture. The culture issue looks to have been corrected by Eade and the injury issue appears to have abated. Some good players have left, but some serviceable mature bodies have been recruited and some talented young future stars. I like Gold Coast’s prospects better than Collingwood and St Kilda this year and I think they are a sneaky chance of the eight. I expect they will surprise everyone and finish somewhere between 8th and 12th.

      • Columnist

        March 7th 2017 @ 2:12pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

        A fair summation PD, and I really hope they spring a surprise and are battling for finals deep into the season. As we say though, keeping their squad fit is a huge part of that.

        They used 40 players last year (second most behind Richmond at 41) and 41 players in 2015 (equal most). They just don’t have the depth for that.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 2:55pm
          George said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

          Suns did not have depth last year but have now! Actually one of the best in competition I would say. Also they are in better physical shape after 2nd year under Cordy.

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