After a failed bid to have the North Melbourne Kangaroos relocated from Arden Street in Melbourne to the Gold Coast in Queensland, the AFL granted a provisional licence to a bid team known as GC17 in 2009.
By any measure, an AFL season that finishes with just three wins and sees the club two wins adrift of the second bottom team has to be regarded as a failed season.
However, not too much emphasis should be placed on the dismal win-loss ratio achieved by the Suns after the two point win against Carlton in Round 4.
At that stage, Gold Coast had achieved three wins in four games and had only lost the first game of the season to St Kilda by one point. Although a series of thrashings followed, another two close losses followed in Round 8 (one point to Melbourne) and Round 13 (four points to St Kilda) – so the Suns could have conceivably been 7-6 after 13 games.
The early part of the season was remarkably similar to Stuart Dew’s first season in which the Suns won their first two games and had three wins after Round 5. In the end, the Suns won one fewer game for the year, but were they that much less competitive?
Considering the loss of talent at the end of 2018, the start to the season could be considered more than reasonable. With the loss of the joint captains (Tom Lynch and Steven May) after the earlier departure of Gary Ablett, the club had no player left with leadership experience. The talent drain also included the loss of Aaron Hall (North Melbourne) Kade Kolodjashnij (Melbourne) and Jack Schrimshaw (Hawthorn) who – with mixed success – contributed a total of 48 games and 60 goals to their new clubs in 2019 but more importantly ‘robbed’ the Suns of 439 games and 364 goals experience.
The retirement of Michael Rischitelli, who served the club well since joining them in 2011 from Brisbane, means they lose another 132 games of experience and number three on the all time games list, but with the continuing emergence of Sam Day, Alex Sexton (now a goal centurion), Touk Miller and Jack Martin they are gradually burying the ghosts of the past (particularly Gary Ablett) and establishing some culture, history and team building to build a future on.
It should be remembered that the club is still less than 200 games old. Collingwood has played more than that number of games against old foes Carlton, Essendon, Geelong, Melbourne, Richmond and Sydney.
Dark days have been experienced in the past by clubs such as St Kilda, North Melbourne, Hawthorn and Melbourne and, while it is conceded that a different set of circumstances exist in the 21st century, remember it was only last year that Brisbane was considered a struggling club.
Newer Gold Coast players such as Chris Burgess, Sam Collins, Jack Lukosius, Will Powell, Will Brodie, Ben King and Jordan Murdoch are beginning to make their presence felt and I strongly believe that – with some clever recruiting, a little luck and Stuart Dew receiving the full backing of the board – the Gold Coast Suns will surprise on the upside in 2020.