At the beginning of October, St Kilda football boss Simon Lethlean confirmed the club was thinking about making a play for Gold Coast’s Ben King in the 2020 trade period.
Brother Max was drafted to the Saints in the 2018 draft and Lethlean was open about the desire to have the twin towers lining up together in the 2021 season.
“It’s obviously a romantic thought to have twins playing together,” he told AFL Trade Radio.
“That’s a pretty clear-cut one – Ben is playing at Gold Coast next year, and if he doesn’t sign and looks to move next year we’ll talk to him.”
King signed an extension with the Suns a couple of weeks later, keeping him a contracted until the end of 2022. And the news was widely celebrated by the AFL community, who knew this was a step in the right direction for the struggling Gold Coast.
As a society we cheer the Suns on to victory when they aren’t playing against our team and we celebrate things such as Ben King’s contract extension.
But is that support really genuine? Do we even want the Suns to succeed?
Or do we hope they win a game against opposition supporters just to stick it to the losing side?
Or hope that an opposition club gets stitched up because a talented player actually wants to commit to the Suns, instead of turning their back in search of something more?
It’s a blurred line and it’s worth asking the question.
Personally? I’d like to see them succeed. It would be good for footy to have a genuinely competitive 18-team competition. Not all teams can be up and about every year, but we don’t need a league where we focus on 17-team analysis and leave the Suns behind.
At times, it’s hard to get a grip on what exactly the Suns are trying to achieve and where they are going.
The Jack Martin situation is a perfect example of this.
Following months of speculation that Martin wanted a move to Victoria to continue his AFL career, he officially requested a trade to Carlton at the end of the home-and-away season.
By the end of the trade period, a deal between the two parties could not be reached.
Now, Martin will either walk out of the Suns, put a price on his head and enter himself into the pre-season draft with hope he will slip through to be taken by Carlton with pick three, or the Suns will successfully convince him to re-sign between now and then and he will remain at the club.
Last week, I had a rant about Carlton’s approach to the situation and this week I’m putting the heat on the Suns because they’ve sent out a lot of mixed messages in this situation.
Martin, who has been talked up as the next big thing by the media since initial whispers of his move to Melbourne emerged, was dropped by the Suns prior to their Round 21 encounter with Brisbane. He didn’t play for the rest of the season. Nor did he finish in the top ten of the Suns’ best and fairest.
That’s totally fine. What different individuals and clubs see in a player may vary.
But between then and the time Martin officially requested a trade, the club has done a complete 180.
They are more than welcome to name their price for any player who may want to leave. But for a player that missed out on the final three games of the season and missed the top ten of the club best and fairest, the Suns all of a sudden rated him exceptionally highly.
The final trade offer that was reported by the AFL website’s Callum Twomey was Carlton’s pick nine in exchange for Martin and pick 15.
At the end of the trade period, Gold Coast president Tony Cochrane said their hard stance with the Martin trade was the sign of a new-look Suns.
“We wanted to send a strong message that we are not the club we were. We have changed and in line with that we have made a strong and bold statement,” he said.
There’s nothing wrong with Cochrane’s comments, and while I am impressed at the club’s approach, Martin will probably now walk away for nothing.
It’s contradictory to say you rate a player so highly and then sit him on the sidelines for the final three rounds of the season while the club is belted by 91, 70 and 72 points respectively.
So what’s going on here with the Suns?
They have some talent and it extends beyond Ben King. Co-captains Jarrod Witts and David Swallow are two very good players and servants of the club. Alex Sexton, Jack Bowes and Ben Ainsworth were all impressive throughout the course of the year.
Jack Lukosius can only improve in his second season and Izak Rankine will hopefully get his body right and make his debut.
And they brought in some handy talent during the trade period. Two-time premiership Tiger Brandon Ellis, Adelaide’s Hugh Greenwood and former Sun turned Cat Zac Smith all moved up north. All will be handy players for Gold Coast now and in the future.
They are building a core group of players nicely and if Stuart Dew can keep this up-and-coming group together, they may be able to turn things around. Add likely top two picks and best mates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, and things could be looking up.
But now it’s time for the Suns to take themselves seriously so those outside the club can too.
The AFL’s assistance package was an enormous boost that had “last chance” written all over it. They have a coach who is invested in his side and his players. They have a young group of talent that appears dedicated to the cause. They have a helping hand from the AFL.
If now isn’t the time to make things work, then I don’t know if the day will ever come.
And for the sake of our competition, we need to genuinely be with them all the way.