The AFL’s perennial cellar-dwellers claimed their second wooden spoon last season with a miserable three-win campaign and could have scarcely begun 2020 any worse.
Fresh off an unprecedented assistance package that netted them the top two picks in the draft, among a host of other concessions, and a productive player movement period that brought in premiership-winning Tiger Brandon Ellis, the Suns laid an egg in Round 1.
While I reckon Port Adelaide are a lot better than people realise, you should not be scoring just 29 points in a game of Australian rules football and, if you do, you certainly shouldn’t be losing by 47.
Here are four burning questions for Gold Coast as their 2020 campaign gets back underway.
Other fan-bases don’t know how good they’ve got it. While we’re all speculating when our next premiership or finals appearance might be, Suns fans are pondering where the next four points are coming from.
Their current losing streak is a whopping 19 games – two off the club record of 21 and getting dangerously close to the record books. They’re not in danger of touching University’s record of 51, but something like South Melbourne’s 29-game losing streak in the ’70s – currently the fifth longest – is achievable.
Hopes of an immediate turnaround this season were dashed in Round 1 as they were dominated by the Power in a horror outing.
Given we only know the fixture up until Round 5, it’s hard to know what the future holds, but you think they’d be circling Round 4’s clash with Fremantle on the calendar. The Dockers will have been interstate for three weeks by that point, while the Suns have also knocked them off in their last two clashes at home.
If they drop that one, all bets are off.
Part of the AFL’s assistance package saw the Suns nab Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson with the top two picks in last year’s draft – both viewed as excellent prospects in an otherwise middling class.
Normally an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old wouldn’t be tossed in the deep end, but that’s what happened in Round 1 and they both managed quite well.
Anderson was serviceable with 12 disposals off the bench, while Rowell had an excellent debut with 19 disposals, four tackles and even four clearances. Neither looked overawed by the occasion and will no doubt serve the club well – provided they can be re-signed.
The challenge with first-year players is managing their workload and making sure they don’t run out of steam by the end of the season, but the second pre-season and reduced number of matches could work out quite handily in their favour.
Don’t expect either player to challenge for the 2020 Brownlow, but this top-two duo should find themselves comfortably inside the best 22 every week.
The Suns have a reasonable number of players coming out of contract this season but, fortunately, very few of them look to be the promising youngsters they’ve had a penchant for losing over the years.
They already took care of their highest priority: Brayden Fiorini, a Victorian native who broke out last season to finish fifth in the club best and fairest. Jesse Joyce would be next on the list, but otherwise it’s gap-stoppers they’ve picked up over the years or raw youngsters who haven’t shown much just yet.
Still, the list of players they’ll need to make decisions on this season is quite interesting, starting with ex-Tigers Anthony Miles and Corey Ellis. Miles played 17 games last season, but injured a pectoral muscle and will miss a fair bit of this season. He’ll be 29 at the start of next season and that could count against him.
Ellis, on the other hand, has played just four games and looks to be in real trouble.
George Horlin-Smith was dropped from the leadership group this season after only managing seven games in 2019, while veterans Pearce Hanley and Jarrod Harbrow are also on the last year of their respective deals.
The most important thing Stuart Dew has done for the club is change the culture and stop the deluge of young talent leaving the club once their contracts were up.
He gets a big cross for delisting Jarryd Lyons, but Tom Lynch had his mind set on a Richmond move long before Dew came on board, while moving Steven May on for pick six a year before he hit free agency looks likely to end up a huge heist.
Since then, player retention has been excellent.
But this is a results business and with a record so far of 7-38, Dew’s record is comfortably the worst of any Gold Coast coach. Rodney Eade was sacked with three games remaining in his third season and his winning percentage was a full 11 points higher than Dew’s is currently.
He’s out of contract at the end of this season and while a two-year extension is reportedly a formality, at what point do the Suns need to start climbing?