Will GWS Giants or Gold Coast taste success first?

mastermind5991 Roar Guru

By mastermind5991, mastermind5991 is a Roar Guru

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    The Gold Coast Suns have had two years in the AFL to perform, the Greater Western Sydney Giants just one. Both won the wooden spoon in their first years, 2011 and 2012, respectively.

    No surprise really given the lack of senior experience spread across the two clubs.

    Looking at the last two years, I can’t see either club achieving success in the short term just yet.

    Combined, the two clubs have won just eight out of a possible 66 AFL matches since the Gold Coast Suns were admitted into the AFL in 2011. The Suns won three matches in both 2011 and 2012, and the Giants just two last year.

    Fans of both clubs need to learn that success will not come in an instant. The Fremantle Dockers are a strong example of this.

    They entered the competition in 1995 but it wasn’t until 2003 when they first came to prominence with their first finals appearance that year.

    Before that breakthrough year, the Dockers endured some tough years, including a wooden spoon in 2001 and a 17-match losing streak to start that season (18 if you include a final round loss in the 2000 season).

    The coach at the time, Damian Drum, was sacked in the middle of this losing streak and replaced with Ben Allan.

    The team was struggling to put anything together but it wasn’t until the final five rounds of the season that they would really start to click.

    Exciting victories over Hawthorn in round 17 and Adelaide in Round 22 (both clubs eventually reached the finals) saw the end to one of the darkest periods in the club’s history.

    The Dockers have enjoyed finals in four of the eleven completed seasons since, but there was also a dark period between 2008 and 2009 as well.

    This proves that to gain long-term success, a team must endure long-term pain. Other teams like the West Coast Eagles and Carlton have also endured tough periods at the bottom before becoming the teams that they are now.

    This is the task facing both the Gold Coast Suns and the GWS Giants. Looking at the two teams very closely, I think GWS have the more experienced management, and a well-planned future, with Kevin Sheedy, a four-time premiership coach with Essendon, to relinquish his role as coach and hand the clipboard to Leon Cameron, a former Hawthorn assistant coach, in 2014.

    The Giants have planned their future well, whereas the Gold Coast Suns have been clouded by speculation involving its head coach Guy McKenna and the certain criteria he needs to meet (such as number of wins in a season) in order to survive at the club.

    First, I’ll look at the Gold Coast Suns. When they were approved as an official AFL team in 2008, the Suns already set about targeting certain players, which included St Kilda’s Gold Coast-raised captain Nick Riewoldt, Hawthorn superstar Lance Franklin, now-Sydney Swan Kurt Tippett and Geelong’s Gary Ablett.

    Of these players, only Ablett was successful in being lured to the holiday strip. Other names to join the Suns included NRL convert Karmichael Hunt, Jared Brennan, Michael Rischitelli, David Swallow and Campbell Brown, among others.

    It was a very impressive recruitment raid by the Suns, but whether they could perform in the one team remained to be seen.

    Guy McKenna was appointed the club’s inaugural head coach. McKenna was previously a captain at the West Coast Eagles (coached by Mick Malthouse at the time) and was an assistant coach at Collingwood under Malthouse.

    McKenna had never previously coached at the highest level so the Suns’ decision to appoint him as head coach was a bit of a gamble.

    He spent two years preparing the Suns for the vigours of AFL in the TAC Cup (2009) and the VFL (2010), and by 2011 it appeared as if the Suns were ready. Or were they?

    Their debut match was in round two, 2011 against Carlton. Unfortunately, it also happened to be the same match in which its captain Chris Judd would celebrate his 200th AFL match.

    The Suns had no answers to the experience of the Blues and were walloped by 20 goals. But it didn’t take them long to win their first AFL match, against Port Adelaide in round five.

    It almost didn’t happen after the Suns had their big lead cut down and only a failed post-siren shot for goal from Port’s Justin Westhoff saved the Suns and they were triumphant in an AFL match for the first time.

    Success, as expected, was limited for the Suns in 2011, but the superstar status of Gary Ablett did not diminish and the Suns won three matches for the year; their two other wins were against the Brisbane Lions in round seven and against Richmond in round 18.

    Blowout losses were also suffered, none more so than 139 and 150-point losses to Essendon and Geelong respectively.

    Despite that, the 2011 season was still considered a success, given the Suns were able to win three matches and Gary Ablett continued to carve up teams.

    Their 2012 season didn’t start well and by the middle of the season they were without a victory in fourteen starts.

    That was until they travelled up to Cairns, the venue of their last victory, against Richmond.

    They were down by 10 points with 30 seconds remaining, until some tactical and smart decision making saw them pull off a miraculous victory which was capped off by a post-siren goal from league convert Karmichael Hunt.

    Again, they won three matches in the year and again Gary Ablett continued to dominate against teams, to the point where he won three votes in many matches which the Suns lost, most of them by heavy margins.

    Ablett has stated this off-season that the Suns aim to win a premiership within the next five years.

    I don’t mean to criticise the club and its long-term plans, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon, given the lack of experience in most of this team.

    However as the years progress the Suns will soon become a genuine premiership team, and it might not be long until we see them playing in September.

    Now, I’ll assess the Greater Western Sydney Giants. The AFL’s foray into Sydney’s western suburbs was being considered as a great risk, given the NRL clubs that are based there (Parramatta, Penrith and the Wests Tigers).

    The idea of a second Sydney team was raised in the wake of the Sydney Swans’ 2005 premiership success, which ended the longest premiership drought (72 years) in Australian sporting history.

    Following several delays, including the 2008 economic crisis, the Giants were formally accepted in 2009 to enter the AFL in 2012.

    The first big appointment they made was that of head coach Kevin Sheedy, a man who coached Essendon for 27 years and won four premierships in that period.

    His experience would later prove valuable to the young players he would eventually recruit in the later years.

    Among the big names they chased included Tom Scully, Callan Ward, Taylor Walker, Jimmy Bartel and Rhys Palmer, among others.

    Scully, Ward and Palmer were successfully pursued by the club, and more experience was added with the arrivals of Port Adelaide pair Chad Cornes and Dean Brogan, as well as former Carlton forward Setanta O’ hAilpin.

    Additionally, they signed Israel Folau from the NRL, an experiment which would later backfire as he is now back in rugby (union, that is). Again, whether they could perform in the same team remained to be seen.

    I attended their first ever AFL match last year, against the Sydney Swans at ANZ Stadium. To this day, I still think the AFL were wrong to debut the Giants against their bigger brothers, as it almost certainly guaranteed a victory for the Bloods (they had not won a first round match since 2005).

    Although the Giants put up a competitive effort, they lost by 63 points and it showed that they still had a very long way to go.

    But their next match delivered a massive reality check – a 129-point defeat to North Melbourne, who were way experienced and way too good on that Sunday afternoon in Hobart.

    However, the Giants would not have to wait long until their first AFL victory – and it was against fellow infants the Gold Coast Suns in Canberra.

    Heavy losses were frequent during the season, but most of them were expected especially against AFL powerhouses Hawthorn, Collingwood, Adelaide and the Sydney Swans (all of whom finished in the top four in 2012).

    Their only other victory during the season was against Port Adelaide in round 19, and it was that match that cost Matthew Primus his job.

    The Giants’ victory was made all the more special given it was Kevin Sheedy’s 1,000th AFL match in any capacity and it was their first ever win at Skoda Stadium.

    Eventually, as the Gold Coast Suns did in their first year, the Giants picked up the wooden spoon.

    Again, not a surprising outcome given the lack of experience in the Giants’ team which will start to become much stronger and more experienced as the years advance by.

    They have planned for the future very well, with Kevin Sheedy about to gear up for what could be his final season of AFL coaching before he hands it all over to Leon Cameron in 2014.

    We have now seen first hand how tough AFL life can be for both the Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants.

    But as the years pass by, the two teams will be much more experienced and competitive and blowout losses like those we saw in the last two years will become less frequent.

    Which of the two teams appear to be closer to more success? Could any of them even win the flag in the next decade? Only time will tell.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • February 25th 2013 @ 9:05am
      Fred said | February 25th 2013 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      It is a very interesting topic that you cover very well. My view is that whilst the giants did seem allot better than there suns in2012 we need to consider some other factors.
      1. The secondyear blues. The Giants will go through this, nodoubt about it. The suns will hopefly recover.
      2. The go home factor. This will bemuch higher at the giants. Beccause lets face it, Western Sydney is not football territory at all. These boys want to experience the full football spectrum. And also the other thing that all we young men think about. Theyoung giants will not begetting the recognition they believe theydeserve from the opposite sex. Gold Coast is well known as the glamour strip so no problems there.

      In my opinion the giants may win 2 flags but the suns will only win 1…but the suns will be near the summit for longer.

      • February 25th 2013 @ 10:33am
        Matt F said | February 25th 2013 @ 10:33am | ! Report

        I’m not sure if I agree with your second point. While some players love the celebrity status that comes with playing AFL in an AFL state others hate it. A fair few players love the relative anonymity that they get playing AFL in NSW or QLD. As for gaining the attention of the opposite sex I think they’ll be fine. Even if they’re relatively unknown they’re still very athletic young men with more money than most others their age. Besides these days it only takes a 30 second search on a phone to check if they really are the football player that they claim to be

    • February 25th 2013 @ 9:37am
      Cameron said | February 25th 2013 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      speculative article. It’s too early to pose this kind of question

    • February 25th 2013 @ 9:55am
      TC said | February 25th 2013 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      All I can say is that to my eyes, the Giants are looking far more impressive.

      They have two key forwards who already look like they can match it with the game’s elite, despite bing only 19 years old, and then they have a vast array of mids aged between 19 and 23 who can already win the pill and use it.

      Davis needs some support down back, but otherwise, you can already see a pretty good team developing before your eyes.

      • February 25th 2013 @ 10:09am
        Fred said | February 25th 2013 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        But will they stick around? Not all of them will.
        This year will be telling. Last year wecompared thesecond year blues Suns to the impressively trained Giants.
        Also a side note. The Giants have 10000 members. More than the Suns and almost at lastyears total already. It isalso more than alot of NRL clubs (comparing not competing). Western Sydney is embracing football slowly despite near to no media coverage of the giants in the major sydney news outlets.

        • February 25th 2013 @ 10:12am
          TC said | February 25th 2013 @ 10:12am | ! Report

          I’m pretty sure they have all extended their contracts.

        • February 25th 2013 @ 10:36am
          Matt F said | February 25th 2013 @ 10:36am | ! Report

          Of course some will leave. Some will get homesick, others won’t develop as expected and others will leave simply because they can’t get a game in what should be a very talented team. They can afford a few of them to leave and still go on to become a very good team. The real question is will enough of them stick around and the early indications are pretty good

        • February 25th 2013 @ 11:49am
          Mark said | February 25th 2013 @ 11:49am | ! Report

          At the moment GWS has re-signed 25 players until 2015 or beyond in the case of Scully and Ward, while Suns have only 3 players signed to 2015. So GWS does seem to be going well in re-signing players but over time they will lose players but at this stage it seems that the players they lose will be guys who can’t get a regular gig in the top grade.

    • February 25th 2013 @ 10:33am
      Melbourne is the New Adelaide said | February 25th 2013 @ 10:33am | ! Report

      Friendly word of advice for next article. Cut the article down and exclude the ‘facts’ that we clearly already know (like GC recuiting Ablett, GWS getting the wooden spoon etc etc) as you are simply retelling a now rather boring story. The Freo comparison could have been more interesting, but what concessions did Freo get compared to GC/GWS and is this a fair comparison? Where did Freo go wrong all those years and how are GC/GWS going to avoid these probs? Maybe the sample size is way too small to really draw comparisons with Freo and reach a conclusion.

      As Cameron states, its perhaps too early to tell and in essence will probably fall down to the injury list.

      • February 25th 2013 @ 12:23pm
        Ian Whitchurch said | February 25th 2013 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

        “Where did Freo go wrong all those years and how are GC/GWS going to avoid these probs? ”

        Briefly, Freo and the Brisbane Bears concentrated on building teams who could win in year one – they recruited the best combination of experience and state league players they could get, and were willing to trade away draft picks to get that.

        In the case of Freo, this worked well initially, and then they needed to commence a rebuild.

        The Bears, again, bumped along the bottom as their experience got older and older, and then rebuilt (assisted by the Fitzroy merger and AFL concessions).

        GWS and Gold Coast are avoiding that by not trading away the future of the team for wins now, and concentrating on getting games into their kids.

        In the case of GWS, they added high-leadership veterans in Power and McDonald, as well as Brogan and Cornes.

        In the case of Gold Coast, they added the best player of his generation in GAJ.

        But in both cases, the teams took the pain now for the gain later.

        • February 25th 2013 @ 12:34pm
          Matt F said | February 25th 2013 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

          The main issue for the Bears was that the AFL made the other clubs each give up 2 players to them. Naturally the other clubs gave them the players that they didn’t want.

          Fremantle simply recruited poorly. The most famous one being trading a young kid named Andrew Mcleod for Chris Groom. They also gave Essendon compensation picks for taking Todd Ridley and Tony Delaney. Essendon used these picks to take Matthew Lloyd and Scott Lucas…

          • February 25th 2013 @ 1:51pm
            Australian Rules said | February 25th 2013 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

            Freo were long the poster boys for bad recruiting.

            Another howler was Freo trading their No.1 pick to Hawthorn for Trent Croad. The Hawks picked up Hodge and Mitchell, and then got Croad back virtually for free a few years later, where he played CHB in a premiership winning team.

    • Roar Guru

      February 25th 2013 @ 12:33pm
      Redb said | February 25th 2013 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

      I think Gold Coast have an ace that GWS do not and that is Gary Ablett Jnr. He is head and shoulders above anyone else on either team. GC need a forward option to capitalise on an improving midfield with Ablett at the helm, I see this the major weakness v GWS who seem to be overloaded forward talent. Folau leaving was a blip on the radar when you have Patton and Cameron up forward.

      • February 25th 2013 @ 2:40pm
        Ian Whitchurch said | February 25th 2013 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

        With Ablett and Bennell, Gold Coast have probably the two best midfielders on either side … but with Greene, Coniglio, Shiel, Scully, Ward and so on, GWS will be ok in the midfield.

        • Roar Guru

          February 25th 2013 @ 3:16pm
          Redb said | February 25th 2013 @ 3:16pm | ! Report


          In the future their midfield will be strong, but the article is about who will get their first and as GC’s midfield has G Ablett I’m tipping GC.

          Dont care which gets their first to be honest.

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