AFL NEWS: Commentary legend steals the show at the Logies, clubs call for Friday night footy facelift
Broadcasting great Bruce McAvaney has been inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame, in a fitting tribute to an icon of Australian sport. McAvaney,…
It’s easy to mock the Gold Coast Suns, from their lack of success both on and off-field, to their crappy team song, to the fact that they were granted a licence prior to a Tasmanian team.
And some of that criticism is fair.
The Suns have definitely underachieved throughout their time in the league, especially compared to their expansion counterparts the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
Some of that could be put down to the challenges of building a team from scratch in non-AFL territory, especially in a market like the Gold Coast. But some of it is also self-inflicted, as poor list management and team culture helped to stifle any attempt to take the next step.
Coming into season 2022, no coach was under more pressure than the Suns head coach Stewie Dew. That wasn’t exactly a surprise, given Gold Coast had finished 16th in 2021 (only ahead of Collingwood and North Melbourne) and from a distance played out a very Gold Coast season: starting strongly, stagnating, then fading away into virtual anonymity.
So, let’s take a closer look. On paper, seven wins and 15 losses certainly screams mediocre. Solid wins against Sydney, Collingwood, Hawthorn and reigning premiers Richmond were overshadowed by heavy defeats late in the season against Brisbane, Melbourne, and Essendon, as well as copping payback from the Swans in the final round.
Their success that year was through working to ensure their opponents could not turn forward 50 entries into scores. They were able to lead the competition in rebound 50s and finish second for tackles (behind eventual premiers, Melbourne).
Where the Suns fell apart, however, was on converting their rebounding play into their own forward 50 entries. They ranked 15th for forward 50 entries and last for marks inside 50. Against those figures, it’s not hard to see why they often struggled to turn entries into scores. For the record, the Suns are currently sitting fifth for Inside 50s, and sixth for marks inside forward 50.
As of Round 9, the Suns are 13th with a 3-5 win-loss ratio. Their biggest defeat has come at the hands of fellow banana benders, the Brisbane Lions, by 52 points. And watching that game, it’s fair to say the final margin didn’t do the Suns justice as the Lions largely blew them away in the final quarter.
Other than that, they have lost to Melbourne by 13 points, Collingwood by 25 and St Kilda and GWS by 26. So, it’s fair to say, things could be a hell of a lot worse for the Gold Coast Suns.
Some may scoff, but there is a lot to like about the Suns in 2022, such as the continued development of Matt Rowell, Izak Rankine, Mabior Chol and Jack Lukosius. Combine that with heart and soul provided by Touk Miller, Jarrod Witts and David Swallow, as well as the return of Ben King should provide plenty for fans to get excited about.
All of which brings us back to Stewie Dew. As previously stated, going into 2022 he was widely tipped to be the first coach to be given the flick (well, Leon Cameron managed to make a fool out of all of us there). All of the talk surrounding Dew was that it was finals or bust. Now, I can understand why everyone was saying that. In 11 seasons in the AFL, the Suns have failed to taste September action, with their best finish being 12th in 2014.
2014 was their final season under inaugural coach Guy McKenna. Having made incremental improvements with each preceding season, the Suns found themselves in Round 16 hosting my beloved Magpies at Metricon Stadium. A tight, hard-fought five-point victory came at an enormous cost, with skipper Gary Ablett Jr’s season coming to a premature end thanks to a shoulder injury.
The Suns proceeded to lose all but one of their remaining matches, culminating in McKenna’s sacking.
To this day, I still think McKenna was stiff. Yes, they had no doubt struggled in the AFL up until that point, but they had shown enough in 2014 to suggest they were heading in the right direction. McKenna’s sacking paved the way for Rodney Eade to take the reins.
Despite his previous success in transitioning the Sydney Swans and Western Bulldogs from struggling also-rans to finalists, Eade could not achieve a higher finish than 15th, as the divide between coach and players paved the way for his sacking in Round 19 of the 2017 season.
I think the Suns have to hold their nerve here. It would be easy to tell Stewie Dew to pack away his speed dealer sunnies and head off into the sunset. But honestly, I don’t think the Suns can afford to repeat the process again of looking for another coach.
It’s not exactly as if there are better options out there.
You’re looking at untried potential, and they have also tried going for experience, only for it to end in tears. Despite all the conjecture, I honestly don’t think Alistair Clarkson wants the Suns coaching gig, nor do I think he’s going to be able to replicate the success he experienced at Hawthorn.
History has suggested there is something to be gained by backing in a coach that little bit longer if Mark Thompson at Geelong in 2006 and Damien Hardwick at Richmond a decade later are anything to go by.
Is Dew in the same league as Bomber and Dimma? Of course not. But I don’t think they will gain anything by moving Dew on, especially in the short term. They can’t afford another wasted season, but they equally cannot afford to just simply start again.