After an absolute ripper game, possibly the game of the season, on Thursday night between Gold Coast and St Kilda, Bruce McAvaney said that this match-up is “building up a great rivalry”.
Stuart Dew said the Saturday before the game between Gold Coast and Adelaide: “Our time is now… We’re here to win and get four points like every other team.”
I thought that was absolute bollocks.
But it turns out he was absolutely right.
Yes, they’ve faced some easy teams these first few weeks (Adelaide) and they got thumped by the Power in the opening round, but they’ve been impressive and have shown so much improvement, even beating the Eagles in Round 2.
Here’s why they’re a finals contender.
During the off-season, they were a team that had a few eyes on them. And some were impressed by their signings and draftees. They picked up players such as Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson via the first two picks, plus Hugh Greenwood, Zac Smith and who could forget about Brandon Ellis.
With Rowell and Anderson, you get two unbelievably talented midfielders coming from the Oakleigh Chargers, who’ve already helped improve an alright midfield, Rowell especially. Greenwood also helps out their midfield, Smith gives depth in both their ruck stocks and up forward, while Ellis helps out their wing stocks.
And they’ve already helped out, with Gold Coast second in disposals and contested possessions, first in kicks and rebound 50s, equal fifth in marks, and sixth in tackles and clearances. Yes, it’s obviously a team effort, but their new recruits have been the main ones to really help out.
Young players that are continuing to improve
Yes, there’s Rowell and Anderson of course, but there are other young players who’ve improved a lot recently, including this season. These includes Ben King, Jack Lukosius, Ben Ainsworth, Jack Bowes, Wil Powell, Darcy MacPherson and Brayden Fiorini.
How have they helped? Well, King has kicked five goals this season, along with an average of ten disposals and five marks per game. Lukosius is averaging around 14 disposals and five marks per game.
Ainsworth and MacPherson have also kicked seven between them in the opening three while Bowes, Powell and Fiorini combined for an average of 18.3 disposals between them. This has again helped improve what was a pretty shocking team last season.
Mixture of both young and old
And finally, part of the key to having a ‘now’ team is having both experienced campaigners along with the odd young star and a few mid-career player. They have a few mid-career players, they have a few young stars and there’s some good role-playing veterans.
Players such as Jarrod Witts, Jarrod Harbrow, Pearce Hanley, David Swallow and Zac Smith help bring leadership and usually excel in their positions, while mid-career players such as Touk Miller, Lachie Weller, Alex Sexton, Hugh Greenwood and Brandon Ellis help them gain that balance the Suns need to push for finals as well. And of course, don’t forget about those young guns, who still have a lot of room to grow.
The Suns have a pretty good mixture for a ‘now’ team, including recruiting well, having uber-talented young players, solid mid-career players and some good role-playing veterans.
The question is, though, can they continue to surprise and make a play for that finals spot that’s eluded them for the last nine years?