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The Gold Coast Suns had an amazing draft haul this year, picking up the likes of Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine and Ben King, all of whom are on track to be superstars of the game.
Stuart Dew would be rubbing his hands together at the prospect of these three, who are all close friends – Lukosius and Rankine attended the same school in Adelaide – lining up together next year. Rankine has a genuine X factor, Lukosius is one of the best kicks to come through the draft in recent years and King can excel down back and then push forward and kick ten goals for fun.
It all seems very exciting – yet Gold Coast go through this process every single year and the results don’t come.
With Tom Lynch and Steven May’s off-season departures to Victoria, the Suns’ problems with players leaving have been played up in the media.
In 2010 the Suns had eight first-round picks and chose David Swallow, Harley Bennell, Sam Day, Josh Caddy, Dion Prestia, Daniel Gorringe, Tom Lynch and Sebastian Tape. Gorringe and Tape were both delisted after 22 and 40 games for the club respectively.
As for the rest of those players, Swallow and Day are the only ones left in the Sunshine State, with Caddy, Prestia and Lynch all moving to Richmond and Bennell leaving for Fremantle. Caddy and Prestia have had outstanding years at Tigerland and Lynch looks as though he’ll do the same.
Swallow is one of the Gold Coast’s best players and they are very lucky that they chose him, as he actually elected to stay put and re-sign with the club until 2024 this offseason. That being said, he is currently ranked 111th in the AFL according to Champion Data. Day is ranked 504th in the AFL, although it is a bit unfair to criticise him as he had some troubles with injury, which meant that it was only natural that his ranking would slide.
However, their best player statistically, Jarryd Lyons, was delisted this off-season. Despite being their most prolific ball-winner, as he ranked third in the league for clearances and ninth for contested possessions, he was dropped twice throughout the season.
Jaeger O’Meara, who was drafted in 2011, left for Hawthorn and has excelled at Waverley Park. Steven May, who was co-captain and a menace down back, left for the Demons this offseason, and Aaron Hall signed with North Melbourne to cap off a dismal trade period for the Suns. This rubbed salt into the wounds of the Suns as they also lost their star recruit and arguably the game’s best ever player, Gary Ablett Jr, only the year before.
Gold Coast have had all the young talent in the world since their introduction into the AFL in 2011 and yet they’re performing like a state-league team. They seemingly cannot keep any draftees, and the coaching staff does not maximise their potential of the ones they do keep. The highest they have finished is 12th, which was in 2014, and residents on the Gold Coast are not taking any interest, as they have very few spectators at their matches.
If Gold Coast actually want to become a competitive team in the AFL, they need to maximise their young talent’s potential, keep their players and improve their list. Matthew Lloyd spoke out on AFL Trade Radio recently, stating that he thinks that the Suns have “the worst list ever seen put on an AFL field.”
Gary Ablett Jr couldn’t create a positive winning culture up north, so the Suns must look to one of their senior players to stand up. David Swallow seems as though he’ll be there to help create this culture as one of the inaugural Suns.
If their young guns can step up this year, and if they stay there, the Suns could become a very threatening team in the next couple of years.