Gold Coast Suns won’t rise for a while yet

Vince Rugari Columnist

38 Have your say

    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

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    The Crowd Says (38)

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 6:14am
      ManInBlack said | April 3rd 2012 @ 6:14am | ! Report

      I always think of St Kilda, who had top draft picks in Riewoldt, Kosi and Goddard (plus Ball) to add to an established list with mature players (inc Harvey). And, it took the Saints how long to be in a position to contestfinals and then make a GF (and didn’t win, but, only just).

      Gold Coast has predominantly a single tiered age group. The way they list manage over the next 5-10 years will be interesting, and their capacity to contest finals at any point during the first 5 years is to me somewhat doubtful. Within 8 years – perhaps – that will see the 18 yr olds hitting around 26.

      For the folk of the Gold Coast – the interesting thing with the Suns is how much the ‘organic growth’ model will have established real roots. Perhaps – just perhaps – the real heartbeat of the S-E QLD region is yearning to NOT be regarded as glitzy and superficial. Perhaps – just perhaps – the Gold Coast region just wanted to grow something from seeds and feel proud of it???? (which is my hope and why I’m glad that North Melb didn’t get parachuted in).

    • Roar Guru

      April 3rd 2012 @ 8:01am
      The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      Looking at how 14 teenagers took on the Swans in the opening round, more than what the Suns had in their team this time last year, I’m starting to wonder whether the Suns have the best young talent capable of challenging in five years or so.

      Beyond David Swallow, 2010’s number one draft pick, I’m struggling to find genuine guns amongst the younger Suns players.

      I look at 18 year old Clay Smith debuting for the bulldogs in a side that got smashed, and wonder if there is a Clay Smith amongst the Suns? I’m not sure I see him. Who will be supporting Swallow in the trenches in five years time?

      • Columnist

        April 3rd 2012 @ 8:32am
        Vince Rugari said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        This is the question, mate. We’re waiting and waiting but what if it never comes? The feeling up here is that the players just don’t get their hands dirty enough. And it needs to change NOW, because it will be even harder to reverse the longer they wait.

        Although, full credit to young Seb Tape who lost three front teeth for his efforts on Saturday. That’s tough. But there’s not too many others.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 9:13am
        TomC said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        Bennell and Prestia seem to be coming along okay. I don’t think they’d be thrilled about the progress of their KPPs though.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 5:10pm
        Nathan of Perth said | April 3rd 2012 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

        Seems like a shame because I’d love for Guy McKenna to do well.

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:29am
      Chris said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      Um, the Suns are one season and one game into their plan. Hardly the time to start criticising them.

      If were the Suns administration I would hope that at the end of this season, there would be significantly fewer blowouts than there were last year. THat would probably be an even higher priority than then number of wins.

      Season three is when I would be looking to start to win a significant number of games.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 9:32am
        Australian Rules said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        I agree Chris.

        The Suns will take years to be good…not months.

        They will endure the pain but I hope that the young players don’t “learn” how to lose…that’s the risk of such a young, inexperienced side…that they never learn how to win.

        The local support will inevitably drop off and they’ll have to deal with that, but once they look like a finals chance, the GC will jump all over them. Long way to go though.

    • Columnist

      April 3rd 2012 @ 9:00am
      Cameron Rose said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      I agree that the Suns are a long way off. I was staggered to hear David King on AFL360 suggest that they could win 7-9 games this year, and there have been other experts express similar sentiments. If they win five games they should break out the champers, but I can see them only matching last year’s three wins.

      I thought they showed a (very) little bit on the weekend to at least be competitive after a poor start, but in the rankings of disappointing teams for the round, they’d have to come in third behind Melbourne and St Kilda.

      Vince makes a comment above that they don’t get their hands dirty enough, and this is true. If it continues to be the case, then Guy McKenna will be under severe pressure come seasons end.

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:10am
      stabpass said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:10am | ! Report

      Is Mckenna to much of a nice guy, maybe not ruthless enough, i dont know?.

      • Roar Guru

        April 3rd 2012 @ 12:10pm
        The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

        He was a straight ahead player on the footy field, that’s for sure, but I’m just starting to wonder whether there are too many outside runners amongst the younger Suns players – when you get that mix wrong (and we have a few examples from the past decade) – there ain’t nothing the coaching staff can do to fix it in a hurry.

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 12:21pm
          Ian Whitchurch said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          If all else fails, they can trade a couple to GWS, who appear to have the opposite problem 🙂

          • Roar Guru

            April 3rd 2012 @ 12:29pm
            The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

            I agree.

            We sort of touched on this pre-season, and others have mentioned it since, that the GWS teenagers appeared bigger and stronger than the Suns teenagers (Swallow aside, who came into round one last year as a physically mature 18 year old, 100% ready for AFL footy).

            But contested footy is the name of the game – and as blokes like Brown, Ablett, Bock and Rischitelli drop off over the next 3 to 5 years, will there be many amongst the current crop of 19-20 year olds ready to step in seamlessley?

            In fact, for the Suns, it shouldn’t be about stepping into the shoes of those four, but rather, developing a dozen of a similar vein – that’s the key question for me.

          • Roar Guru

            April 3rd 2012 @ 12:38pm
            The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

            Actually, another problem for the Suns, is that two mature players who are meant to be good users of the ball, and offer some run and carry, Brennan and Harbrow, have been caught out with some woeful decision making and execution – which ends up being a double whammy: insufficent hard ball gets coupled with poor use of the limited ball you’re getting.

            • April 3rd 2012 @ 1:07pm
              Ian Whitchurch said | April 3rd 2012 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

              GWS/Suns will be a very good game.

              Regrettably for the Suns, GWS had already looted “their” draft, with Cameron, Hampton, Shiel not being in it.

      • April 3rd 2012 @ 5:47pm
        Norm said | April 3rd 2012 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

        Compared to Worsfold, McKenna was a nice guy. But that’s Ike comparing St Michael to Satan!

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 12:02pm
      brendan said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

      Give the Suns at least six games before judging them.Adelaide did win the pre – season competition so are in good form and as you say Vince the losing margin was about the same as last year.Perhaps its time to put Ablett in the forward line and see if he can snag 6-8 goals a game.

      • Roar Guru

        April 3rd 2012 @ 12:11pm
        The Cattery said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

        Re Ablett – that would be a lot of drive out of the middle that the suns would miss – anyway – he’s still dobbing them from outside 50m!

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 12:33pm
          brendan said | April 3rd 2012 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

          Yeah i know that he got 42 possessions kicked a few from outside 50 and there still getting hammerred.His father’s move to full forward was after he played about 8 seasons whilst junior isnt a full-forward i have no doubt he is capable of being the best small forward in the game.The Suns haven’t IMO generated much interest perhaps putting the onus on McKenzie ,Swallow etch to be genuine gun onballers pumping it down to Dixon and co with Ablett dominating on a flank could make them a very competitive unit.

      • Columnist

        April 3rd 2012 @ 1:02pm
        Vince Rugari said | April 3rd 2012 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

        Taking Gablett out of the midfield would be suicide. He is running everything for them in the guts, without his leadership or ability they’d get absolutely blown away.

        I would usually wait a few games to judge them, but I’ve been watching them closely for over two years now on the ground on the GC. The talk was that their trip to Arizona would give them the tools to stop playing two quarters per game and turn that into three or four. It hasn’t happened yet. They lost to a second-string Geelong side in the NAB Cup, became the first team to lose to GWS, and now showed zero improvement against the Crows. That’s below expectations.

        • April 3rd 2012 @ 1:16pm
          brendan said | April 3rd 2012 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

          Big call Vince .We may get the chance to find out if your right if Ablett misses a few games.

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