Round 13 started with a tussle between a spirited Richmond and a developing Adelaide.
As soon as Stuart Dew walked through the Gold Coast Suns’ door in October 2017, he started evaluating the football club as a whole.
Now nearing halfway through the 2019 AFL season, it looks as though his hard work is starting to pay dividends.
With a total overhaul of the football department – including replacing the inaugural head of football Marcus Ashcroft and list manager Scott Clayton – the Suns finally seem to be bucking the trend of players leaving the club to return back to their home states.
This is seen through the recent long-term contract extensions given to both of their co-captains, David Swallow and Jarrod Witts, as well as other highly regarded players including Touk Miller, Rory Thompson and Alex Sexton.
AFL.com.au have reported that young gun Jack Bowes has also signed a new multi-year deal that spans until the end of 2024.
Dew must be credited with this turnaround regarding player retention. In the 2018 off-season, Dew along with new footy boss Jon Haines and list manager Craig Cameron went after some high-end talent coupled with several mature-age recruits to bolster their 2019 list.
It now seems that players have bought into the message Dew is selling: team-first, defence-first footy. This is showing on and off the field.
On the field this season, disregarding their win-loss record, the Suns have played a far more competitive brand of football than in 2018. They have been right in the game for eight out of their ten games so far.
Last year by the end of Round 10, the Suns had lost five games by over 40 points, in contrast to this year when they have limited that to only two games.
This speaks volumes to Dew’s role as coach, as he is cultivating better performances on the field, while he and senior Suns players are also building a strong culture off the field.
Dew and his football department – along with CEO Mark Evans and chairman Tony Cochrane – must be recognised as the key figures at the Suns who are building an environment where these players feel comfortable committing to the club long-term through multi-year deals.
The Suns have not, however, secured the important signatures of star midfielder Jack Martin, key-forward Peter Wright, and swing man Sam Day.
If they can get pen to paper for all three of those players, that would be a big win for club. Those three players – coupled with the other key signings that the Suns have already made – would mean that the Gold Coast have secured a great deal of young and emerging talent.
This new and improved culture has had rave reviews from all of the clubs’ new recruits who have all settled in nicely to the Gold Coast lifestyle. It feels different this year on the Gold Coast, it feels like there is a change – a big step forward.