The Gold Coast Suns’ fiery centre half forward, Peter Wright, is a player who divides opinion.
Fans point to his best performances as evidence that he is an AFL-standard key forward, while those who have run out of patience are calling for his ticket out of town to be stamped.
Two Metre Peter, as he is known, is a quietly spoken young man who lets his footy do the talking. Or else his best mate, Touk Miller, does it for him. The pair have a great Touk’s Talk episode worth watching and you can see they are intimate friends, which is good for Suns fans given that the club has a stated goal of building a culture where players want to stay.
Wright’s first year was spent dealing with the step up to AFL level from TAC Cup, with only three AFL games and nothing remarkable about them, but he was a dominant presence in the NEAFL with 30-odd goals and some battles with AFL-standard defenders.
In 2016, Wright came back into the senior side having dominated in three NEAFL appearances, only missing one more game for the season. He proved to be a confidence player, having a day out whenever he got on top of an opponent but also going missing when contained by an opponent.
The Suns’ season that year went south at the very moment when Steven May knocked out Stefan Martin in the Q Clash. It also proved to be Wright’s golden opportunity because with Sam Day down back, he could develop at his own pace and still keep his spot the following week. Due to the timing, Wright went into his 12th AFL game without singing the song or being doused in Gatorade.
Round 15 against St Kilda was his breakout game, clunking ten marks, booting three goals and providing three goal assists from just 14 possessions, while also allowing Tom Lynch to play his more natural role.
The following week in the Q Clash, Wright destroyed Brisbane with 20 touches, 12 marks, five goals, three goal assists and a best-on-ground performance (three Brownlow votes) despite Lynch getting five goals of his own.
The Round 18 match was the end of the Suns’ 2016 revival, with the Lynch-Day-Wright experiment yielding four, four and three goals respectively. Lynch finished with his best year, having found a foil in Wright. The duo looked like one of the best in the competition.
In 2017, Day played no part in the three-tall experiment. Wright began to play with more consistency, kicking goals in all but three games in his first complete 22-game season, with all three coming in the first eight games.
He finished the season with 31 goals, and although his 19 behinds didn’t live up to his 27.10 from the season earlier, he incrementally improved and demonstrated once more that he and Lynch were one of the most damaging forward pairings in the league. However, they played only one more game together.
Wright’s 2018 season was frustrating. First he got injured in pre-season, then the injury didn’t respond to treatment, and by the time he was healthy, it was a return to the NEAFL to watch a painful month of footy as Lynch and Day went down with injury and still he couldn’t get a game.
Clearly, Stuart Dew had ideas of how he used Wright, yet it was so far from the previous coach and the expectations of fans it was practically unfathomable. Once sanity prevailed and Dew picked the three big men in the same team, Wright had a decent return nine months after his previous game, while Lynch battled gamely, but Day went off injured, and the Suns lost again.
Wright and Day have been effective together in the forward line, but they have only rarely appeared together once in the past six seasons. With the identification of Ben King as the Suns’ future number one key forward, the competition for the supporting role comes down to one or the other of Wright or Day, yet the former couldn’t get a game despite the latter going ten games without a goal.
Two Metre Peter was tracking better in his AFL career than Joe Daniher at the same stage, then a combination of Stuart Dew’s new game plan, the emergence of Ben King and injuries derailed his 2018 season. Wright was killing it every week in the NEAFL and came back late in the season – watch his game in the Suns’ historic win against the Swans.
In 2019, Wright showed that he’d transitioned into an effective ruck-forward, but for some reason Dew preferred Ben King and Sam Day in 2020, even though Wright’s stats in 2019 were clearly as good if not better than the others.
The knock on Wright is his marking, yet he averages five marks a game and a quarter of them are contested. Day kicks fewer goals, takes fewer marks, isn’t as good chopping out in the ruck and trails in every stat worth mentioning. Of course, statistics aren’t everything and clearly the Suns’ coaches had their reasons for persisting with the King-Day combination all year, but there is zero evidence that Wright has regressed.
The fact of the matter is that Stuart Dew and his coaching staff have favourites. It is shown weekly at the selection table and showed in the second half of this season when they only used 29 players out of 51 on their list.
Will Brodie only got one game, despite David Swallow and Hugh Greenwood clearly needing to be rested during their back to back to back series of games. Brayden Fiorini, who admittedly had a badly disrupted off-season with injuries, was continually played out of position and into misery.
If Wright gets traded, it leaves the Suns badly exposed in the tall department. The whole reason he was blooded so quickly by Rodney Eade was because Sam Day had his horrific injury in 2016 and Tom Lynch became too precious to even play in 2018. If his development hasn’t come on as expected, then it is due to the club’s massive disruptions rather than the player’s fault.
Wright was chosen as an emergency ten games out of 17 in 2020, so that if any tall got injured he’d have played. Every week it got more and more ridiculous that Wright couldn’t get a game, as King got a full season to develop and Day became a protected species.
Another consideration is that Wright has the tank to play 30-minute-plus quarters running down the wings, chopping out 20 per cent of the ruck work (the Suns have more stoppages than any other team) and the shortened quarters lessened his ability to influence games. He kicks goals at about 65 per cent accuracy, takes five marks per game, has a 3:1 free kicks for-and-against ratio, while his tackling and one-per-centers are better than Tom Lynch.
Clearly, Peter Wright has been at a disadvantage in a season of shortened quarters, so it has to be given due consideration when weighing his value in 2021. Other talls on the market have now been dealt, with Jeremy Cameron joining the Cats and Joe Daniher nominating the Lions. Wright is about to become the prettiest girl at the dance.