Tanking and trading: A path back for the Gold Coast Suns

Richard Crabtree Roar Rookie

By Richard Crabtree, Richard Crabtree is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    With rumours circulating this week that Adelaide are willing to trade for South Australian prospect Jack Lukosius, a winding path back to relevance has suddenly been illuminated for the struggling Gold Coast Suns.

    The idea of trading the number one pick is seemingly floated at this stage of the season every year as media pundits astutely identify that the bottom team on the ladder needs immediate help, and an 18-year-old key forward might not be the person to provide it.

    The trade has never eventuated. Since the introduction of the current draft format the bottom team has always retained the first pick, unconvinced by the potential of a ‘ready-made star’ or a group of depth players and instead committing to the long-term upside.

    You would then presume the Lukosius’ rumours are pure speculation, spread at a time when we’re in need of long-term storylines to distract from the mediocre footy being played of a weekend.

    But the Suns present a unique case. With the seemingly inevitable departure of co-captain Tom Lynch and the consequent compensation, they could end up with two picks at the very top of the draft order.

    If they managed to finish in last and net the first pick, a trade with the Crows would appear to make a terrific amount of sense.

    Jack Lukosius projects as the clear number one prospect, as has been the case all season. He’s a versatile, mobile big who could be a generational talent. But do the Suns, a franchise on the brink of disintegration, really want another interstate, long-term project?

    Jack Lukosius

    (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    We’ve seen time and time again that relocating an 18-year-old to the most irrelevant club in the league in a state with only a partial interest in the sport is not a recipe for success. The Suns struggles with retaining young talent have been rivalled only by their Queensland counterpart, and the issues of location and relevance are clearly the common denominator.

    If they were to land the number one pick – and it is still a big if – the Suns might be better off trading for a package of mature players more prepared to relocate to the Gold Coast and undertake the herculean task of resurrecting the club from football obscurity.

    Adelaide’s other first-round picks, currently projected at eight and 13 (from Melbourne in the Jake Lever deal), would also tempt the Suns. But considering their circumstance, they should push for ready-made talent akin to the acquisition of Jarryd Lyons a few seasons ago. With the amount of top-end South Australian prospects in the upcoming draft, I’m sure Adelaide would also be happy to keep the picks and rejuvenate with a whole new batch of local kids, proactively addressing their own retention issues in the process.

    Mitch McGovern already has a foot out the door and by all reports he’s not yet set on a move back home to Western Australia or to the bright lights of Melbourne, only that he needs to get the hell out of Adelaide. At 23, McGovern projects as a potential five to ten-year player just entering his prime, the perfect demographic to target. Perhaps he could be convinced to venture north if the Crows pushed him in that direction.

    In addition to McGovern, there are a plethora of other fringe candidates to sweeten a deal. Rory Atkins and Riley Knight have both found themselves on the outer this year despite being an integral part of the grand final run last season and could benefit from a change of scenery.

    Paul Seedsman has looked good in patches this year but could again find himself relegated to the SANFL once Brodie Smith returns, and other fringe players like Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Curtly Hampton could prove to be handy acquisitions.

    Mitch McGovern Adelaide Crows AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

    Whatever the package might be, it’s certainly worth consideration as a step closer to playing competitive football while still getting the chance at a more ready-made young gun with pick two, such as Sam Walsh or Bailey Smith.

    One would also assume that Adelaide wouldn’t be the only club to come calling if news spread that the pick was available, potentially creating a bidding war to secure Lukosius’ services.

    The compensation that could set this in motion suddenly feels like an extremely valuable asset. While I’m sure the club would ardently say they’d rather keep Tom Lynch, perhaps Gold Coast would be better off getting a handful of best 22 players than breaking the bank for a key forward who can’t change the club’s misfortune by himself.

    However, the path to set up this series of hypotheticals requires some very favourable results in the coming weeks.

    Gold Coast are currently two games ahead of Carlton with a similar percentage, and backing the Blues to start winning games of football seems like such an outlandish proposition it hardly warrants speculation.

    But there is hope. The two teams square off in three weeks in Round 19, a game that will effectively be an eight-pointer in the race for the spoon. If Gold Coast successfully tank their way to a loss, they would only need the Blues to win one other game out of their last seven to clinch 18th spot.

    Tom J Lynch

    (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Friday night’s much-anticipated blockbuster against St Kilda is the other most winnable game in Carlton’s run home. The Saints have looked better in recent times but will be without a forward line as Paddy McCartin joins Josh Bruce and Josh Battle on the sidelines with an ankle injury.

    While the Blues struggles have been well documented, the return (hopefully) of key personnel and a more favourable run with injuries could help make this dream a reality. Provided Kade Simpson plays, the door is ajar for an upset win.

    The other key determining factor in the race for the top pick is the motivational force behind each club. Gold Coast truly have nothing to play for: the doldrums in which they dwell are an accepted part of contemporary football. The team representing the sunshine state has lived more commonly in a dark pit akin to Bane’s birthplace in The Dark Knight Rises, and while Carlton have recently adopted the darkness, Gold Coast were born in it.

    And they were moulded by it too. The result of growing accustomed to this environment is to avoid the knee-jerk sackings that are often the first order of business for cellar-dwelling teams and indeed has been for Gold Coast in the past. Expectation means that Stuart Dew is in no position to lose his job despite the terrible year, unlike his counterpart.

    Carlton have been painted as a club in crisis by the Victoria-centric media, with one win for the season and tens of thousands of disenchanted fans. Brendon Bolton is in the unenviable position of coaching a struggling Victorian club and his job security is under question as a result.

    A couple of wins to end the season would mean a whole lot more to the historically proud Carlton Football Club and its key personnel than it would to the infantile Gold Coast Suns, whose fan base has become very accustomed to losing.

    A Carlton upset this weekend would likely make the Round 19 game between Gold Coast and Carlton at Metricon Stadium the Lukosius – or the ‘whatever we can get from Adelaide’ – Cup, and while Stuart Dew strikes me as a man of character, his moral fortitude may be tested when the potential benefit of a loss far outweighs that of a win.

    But before we reach that potentially enormous Round 19 match-up (only partially sarcastic), Gold Coast’s long climb out of the pit and into football relevance starts this Friday night. After the rest of us have long since flicked over to Wimbledon or Le Tour, Suns fans, if they exist, should be watching intently with the knowledge that the next few weeks could shape the clubs long and short-term future.

    The difference between pick one and two may seem small, but with a clear number one prospect and Adelaide lurking, the ramifications of wins and losses at the bottom of the ladder could dramatically change the fortunes of a struggling franchise.

    For the greater good, in hope of restoring some mythological parity or to simply throw a dog a bone, Gold Coast should unashamedly tank through the remaining seven games of the season and we should all wholeheartedly hope that Carlton can conjure a small miracle on Friday night.

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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    The Crowd Says (38)

    • July 13th 2018 @ 7:15am
      Mick R said | July 13th 2018 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      ‘Friday night’s much-anticipated blockbuster against St Kilda’ …… always good to start the weekend with a good belly laugh.

      Like me I suspect most people will only be tuning in for the pre match to get a hefty chuckle at how hard Eddy Emptyhead and the fox footy team have to work to make this game sound like a viable alternative to being water boarded.

      My bet is they will go down the old “what a cracker between two traditional Victorian foundation clubs’ yeah that’ll get everyone North of Ballarat and West of Shepparton glued to their TV sets for 2+ riveting hours.

      CG need to survive for the long term growth of the game as does the (again, long term) inclusion of a Tasmanian team, I don’t have a solution to the GC woes, but tanking isn’t one of them.

      I do like the idea of changes to the draft to include more picks at the end of the first round (i.e. picks 19 thru say 21) for teams who have not played finals for 3+ years, but making it compulsory to use those picks for trade for established players rather than more 18 year olds who may or may not pan out.

    • Roar Guru

      July 13th 2018 @ 7:57am
      Peter the Scribe said | July 13th 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      I have the path back for The Suns. It is very simple. Go down to Target at Surfers paradise and buy out the store in woolly jumpers. Hire one of those huge army planes, load all the players, staff and footies into the plane and point it South until the land runs out before Antarctica, that’s called Hobart.

    • Roar Guru

      July 13th 2018 @ 7:59am
      Paul Dawson said | July 13th 2018 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      I think Carlton will manage to finish last in their own right.

      personally I find the idea of tanking pretty repulsive – it has been demonstrated to rot clubs from the inside out once you start telling the players it’s ok to lose. Granted most of the Suns players have worked this out for themselves by now, but it still makes a difference when it’s being dictated to them from the powers-that-be in the coaching box.

      Anyways, it’s all meaningless unless Adelaide can convince someone of substance to go to the Suns.

      Mitch McGovern if he could be persuaded would be an incredible coup.

      Rory Atkins or Knight don’t quite seem to have the same impact, Seedsman – not a chance, and Ellis-Yolmen and Hampton are worth about a 4th rounder at best.

      It could be done as a 3 way trade too.

      Anyways, good first article, but I really don’t think tanking is the way forward for the Suns, if the net result of the AFL dropping 200 million into the Gold Coast this past decade is that we have a team who’s desperately trying to lose every game just to get first spot in the draft to trade it because they haven’t got a hope in hell of retaining anyone if they use it – well, I don’t call that good value for money.

      • Roar Guru

        July 13th 2018 @ 12:45pm
        JamesH said | July 13th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

        I think it will need to be a 3-way trade with Carlton because they are almost certain to have that #1 pick. The Blues might actually be interested in taking, say, picks 2 and 20 for pick 1 if they are already considering taking Walsh with their first selection.

        If McGovern (and it’s a massive ‘if’) wanted to head to Queensland then he could be packaged with pick 8 (and perhaps some steak knives) in return for pick 1. The problem for the Suns in this scenario is they really need an elite, big-bodied mid more than a tall forward, even though McGovern would be a big pickup.

    • July 13th 2018 @ 8:07am
      Christo the Daddyo said | July 13th 2018 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      “We’ve seen time and time again that relocating an 18-year-old to the most irrelevant club in the league in a state with only a partial interest in the sport is not a recipe for success. The Suns struggles with retaining young talent have been rivalled only by their Queensland counterpart, and the issues of location and relevance are clearly the common denominator.”

      This sounds logical enough, until you realise the Giants don’t struggle with this problem to anywhere near the level of the Suns. So what’s the difference? Both teams are pioneers in non-natural AFL areas, so the environment is the same. The real difference is that Giants are a well run organisation, whereas the Suns have been a basket-case. And the recruitment of Gary Ablett was a disaster in my view – it simply allowed the rest of the team to sit back and think, Gaz will win it for us. Consequently, many players haven’t developed at the club in the manner you would expect them to. Compare that to the Giants.

      If the Suns can settle down with a halfway competent administration, that will go a long way to solving their on-field problems.

      • Roar Guru

        July 13th 2018 @ 8:48am
        Paul Dawson said | July 13th 2018 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Lot easier to attract players to Sydney than the Gold Coast too

        I’d argue that GWS are a well run organisation not by divine right, but because they haven’t had the same trade barriers the Suns have faced.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 11:22am
        Richard Crabtree said | July 13th 2018 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        Have we forgotten about Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams, Tom Boyd, Will Hoskin-Elliot, Dev Smith, Cam McCarthy, Lachie Plowman and Jon O’Rourke? All early draft picks who left the club during/after their first contract.
        GWS had a lot of early struggles with retaining talent, it’s been the clubs recent success that has kept players there. So I suppose you’re right in suggesting it’s the clubs ineptitude that is to blame for Gold Coast’s problems, but the issue or relevancy is still a genuine concern – and will be for GWS if they slip back down the ladder.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 12:36pm
        Kris said | July 13th 2018 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

        The difference is winning.

        Brisbane retained players – while they were winning. The Giants retain players – they are winning. Teams that can’t win (including Carlton) are vulnerable to losing players.

    • July 13th 2018 @ 8:44am
      Don Freo said | July 13th 2018 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      Until his injury, GC had a ‘ready made’ trade getting 45 disposals a game in the NEAFL and didn’t consider playing him at AFL level. Michael Barlow would provide leadership, drive and class but Stuart Dew isn’t interested.

      He won’t take cast offs. Mitch McGovern is no Jeremy. You’d only trade #1 for a Bont or Cripps or Heeney AND a pick.

      • July 13th 2018 @ 12:38pm
        Richard Crabtree said | July 13th 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        Kidding yourself with that asking price Don. Bont, Cripps, Heeney and the likes are the best case scenario for a number one pick. No way would you trade away that proven talent. Have to be realistic here.

        • July 13th 2018 @ 1:19pm
          Don Freo said | July 13th 2018 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

          I know. That’s why they shouldn’t do it. Dew doesn’t value top up types. Draft only.

          The trades need to be long termers who will stay so they have to be good and young. Weller is that type and will probably win their B&F but they paid way overs for him.

          • Roar Guru

            July 13th 2018 @ 1:24pm
            Paul Dawson said | July 13th 2018 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

            I thought they paid the asking price. If you’re claiming he could have been had for less you should say what that price was and how it should have been achieved.

            or have you given up on your career in education

            • July 13th 2018 @ 3:05pm
              Don Freo said | July 13th 2018 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

              I am saying he probably shouldn’t have cost #2 draft pick but that’s all they had so they paid overs. It was well and truly worth it because he has been their best player and probably their next captain.

              The reality is they might need to keep paying overs to get the types they need…the young types you have described above.

              • Roar Guru

                July 13th 2018 @ 3:50pm
                Paul Dawson said | July 13th 2018 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

                How is it overs? A top ten draft pick is worthless for the qld clubs as they can just assemble a bunch of lower picks to point match anyone in their academy that goes early – so unless there is an extremely highly rated qld academy player who is tipped to be called out very early in the draft the only value that pick has is to obtain the best possible experienced player from another club who is willing to come to Gold Coast

                If they spend it at the draft on an interstate player they risk wasting it once the player leaves in a few years, such as Scrimshaw and pick 7. So I don’t see how it’s overs as the value of pick 2 to the Gold Coast is not the same value as to another club. It is what it is.

    • July 13th 2018 @ 8:49am
      Leighton said | July 13th 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Its an interesting choice facing the Suns. I suspect the days of selecting simply the ‘best talent’ with a first round pick have to be over.

      The Suns, and Carlton, and St Kilda for that matter have to pick not perhaps the best football player, but the best likely captain or vice captain. This may of course be harder to pick in a line up of raw 18 year olds, but the long term impact on the team of an ever reliable half back that marshals the whole team, compared to an enigmatic KP talent may be greater.

      And a good healthy workplace seems paramount. Its a professional job now, so professionalism must run through the whole place. Although not many AFL clubs have fully comprehended what that means until recently.

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