Gold Coast lost their final game of 2017 by 115 points, kicking only three goals in the process. They had literally two scoring shots after quarter time.
Since then, Gary Ablett has left, and a new coach, Stewart Dew, has been installed. Their best player, Tom Lynch, is out of contract at season’s end and, with suitors lining up, would be mad to stay.
Right now, the Suns are in a position where they are the most irrelevant team the VFL/AFL has had in over 100 years. No money, no supporters, no hope.
Let’s see what 2018 has in store.
B: Jack Bowes, Rory Thompson, Kade Kolodjashnij
HB: Pearce Hanley, Steven May, Jarrod Harbrow
C: Aaron Hall, Jarryd Lyons, Matt Rosa
HF: Aaron Young, Tom Lynch, Jack Martin
F: Ben Ainsworth, Peter Wright, Callum Ah Chee
Foll: Jarrod Witts, Michael Barlow, Lachie Weller
Int: Sam Day, David Swallow, Touk Miller, Will Brodie
Em: Tom Nicholls, Brayden Fiorini, Michael Rischitelli
There is nothing to get excited about looking at the squad above, and the initial impression is that any result other than wooden spoon would be a sterling effort by all involved.
Gold Coast have the youngest list in the league, and in many ways are worse off than when they entered the competition in 2011.
The Suns have three players aged 30 or older – Michael Barlow, Matt Rose and Michael Rischitelli – hardly the most inspiring collection of names to lead the way. Jarrod Harbrow and Pearce Hanley are next in line, and will turn 30 in 2018. Harbrow has been a solid citizen since moving up north, while Hanley can at least inject some run and class if he can stay fit enough.
The next bracket of players is made up of those that joined the club in the early years, several of whom probably wouldn’t make the list of any other club, and players who weren’t getting a regular game elsewhere and have taken an opportunity to continue playing AFL.
Lynch is the marquee name in this group but went backwards last year, perhaps burdened by his first season of co-captaincy in a dysfunctional team. He didn’t impose himself as an individual like he had in the past, and was too often a passive presence or non-entity on the field.
Steven May can rightfully be considered as one of the best key defenders in the league, Aaron Hall is a valuable runner that plays with freedom to great effect, while Jarryd Lyons is in the conversation for most underrated player in the competition. Jarrod Witts relished getting an extended run as number one ruckman last year and was arguably Gold Coast’s most consistent player.
Lynch, May, Hall, Lyons, Witts and Hanley are going to be at the core of any wins the Suns have this season. They’ll have to perform well, always, and bring their less experienced and less talented teammates along with them.
Of the other list members in the middle age (in football terms) bracket, David Swallow and Aaron Young will be handy in their roles as inside mid and roaming forward pocket respectively, Rory Thompson once had potential but seems to go backwards every year, while the likes of Alex Sexton, Jesse Lonergan and Sean Lemmens add nothing to the footballing landscape yet played almost 50 games between them last season.
Sam Day is on the comeback trail from a nasty hip injury, and has a place as a bits and pieces tall if he can get back to what he was, which really wasn’t that much.
Gold Coast has plenty of young players, as always, which they are hoping will come through together and drive the club to a maiden finals position at some stage.
A lot was given up for Lachie Weller, which brings about pressure of its own, although this is alleviated by going to an off-Broadway club. Peter Wright has produced similar numbers across the last two seasons, but has been a valuable contributor for such a tall young player. He will make a big leap forward this season or next.
Jack Martin does get better each year, but what, exactly, is he going to become? He’s not a small forward in the traditional sense, but is very lightly-framed for a marking player. He’s been tried everywhere and can play, so we’ll learn a little more this year.
Kade Kolodjashnij and Touk Miller have plateaued or even gone backwards in recent seasons, but showed enough in their early days to say they can still go up a level or two. They’re both only 22 and still have time on their side, but football watchers are an impatient lot.
The Suns have seven players taken in the top 20 at the last three national drafts, which is over 10 per cent of available draftees in that bracket over this time.
Callum Ah Chee has had the most exposure of this lot, having played 30 games, followed by Brayden Fiorini (15), Ben Ainsworth (13), Jack Bowes (11), Jack Scrimshaw (4) and Will Brodie (3).
Will Powell was taken at pick 19 in the 2017 national draft, as a very speculative pick. Someone must have seen something they liked, given Gold Coast are in a position where they need to nail every selection.
All of these youngsters should get opportunities this year, with several of them likely to take their place in Round 1, so a spot will be theirs to lose. A rebuilding side is always interesting to watch, as we try and assess who is going to ‘make it’, and who is on track to be a top-liner.
Stewart Dew was a premiership player at both Hawthorn and Port Adelaide and spent almost a decade as assistant coach at Sydney. Credentials don’t come much more enhanced, so he will have the respect of all as he tries to establish the right behaviours and attitudes learned in his time at those clubs. He is a patient man, and will need to be throughout what is sure to be a long season.
In four of the first five rounds, Gold Coast play North Melbourne, Carlton, Fremantle and Brisbane, all of their fellow contenders for the wooden spoon. A win or two in that run is imperative, even though none of these games will be played at Metricon due to the Commonwealth Games.
If the Suns are 0-5, we should shut them down and move them to Tasmania during the mid-season byes. Perhaps we should do that anyway.