The Roar
The Roar

Thom Roker

Roar Guru

Joined February 2018

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Thom Roker is a podcaster and sportswriter with an abiding interest in the AFL's unwanted and unloved red-haired step-child, the Gold Coast Suns.

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Essendon won 11 games and lost 12, including their finals appearance. They won only 1 game against finals teams and had a pretty easy draw. This season’s draw is much more difficult and they will need to improve a lot in order just to make the top 8.

Can Essendon make the leap to premiership contenders in one year?

I think you’re underselling the Suns midfield. Without a ruckman they were able to match and beat opposition midfields. On Friday, Miller, Rowell, Anderson, Fiorini and Davies squared off with Boak, Wines, Powell-Pepper, Butters and Amon. The Suns group won handily, though to read today’s Cal Twomey puff piece on Port you’d have thought the visitors won by 100 points. Miller was top 3 in the comp on a few awards, Anderson was judged best 2nd year player, Rowell is back to top form, while Greenwood has come out and said part of the reason for leaving was that he knew he’d lose his spot to Davies, who was outstanding. They were playing with an inexperienced ruckman too, so when Witts is in control these guys are gonna pop.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

Port were a top 4 team. New season, new ladder. I think they’ll be good, but if they slide a few places nobody will be surprised.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

The loss of King stings, but it is not going to derail the entire season. Chol, Corbett, Day, Rankine, Ainsworth and Sexton are going to have to combine to cover his loss. Even Casboult’s goal a game career average would be handy if he’s called up. But the two wildcards up front will be Jack Lukosius and Joel Jeffrey. Luko more as a goal assist player setting up teammates inside forward 50 but his goal tally will be important too, while JJ’s 9 goal haul in the VFL was a thing of beauty that got him instantly promoted. Expect 7 or 8 of these players to be picked.

I look at the 2000 season for an example of a 3 headed forward line. Brisbane had Lynch, Bradshaw and Power all kicking more than 50 goals to be in the top 10 of the Coleman (Brown kicked 5). The Bombers had Lloyd and Lucas combining for the same number of goals between the two of them. Each side had their crumbing forwards, Power had happened to be the best (although Jeff Farmer was the best in the comp), with Hird and Caracella chiming in, while Jarrod Molloy also kicked at better than goal a game in a monster forward line. Essendon would have struggled to cover the loss of Lloyd, while Brisbane had the luxury of being able to trade Molloy and still win the Premiership.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

I would laugh so hard if Connor Rozee asked for a trade to the GC to play with his mates Luko, Rankine and Ballard. Couple of 2nd rounders should do it.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

Boak and Wines were two of Port’s best. You and other Port fans say you didn’t watch the game, so you are really just in denial.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

Luke Jackson is 20. Just saying.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

The Swans had an easy draw and Melbourne games for them are not as bad as other interstate clubs due to their South Melbourne origins.

The Suns had a good year in 2021, losing 5 out of 7 close games and their percentage only blew out when they had to relocate to Melbourne for the month of August with 15 minutes notice to play a home game against the Demons at marvel. The media were all in a lather about the Dees flying to the GC, sitting on the tarmac for an hour to re-fuel, then flying back to Tullamarine and sleeping in their own beds. The Suns, who arrived after scrambling to the airport and losing luggage in the transit, at after midnight after waiting for Covid tests, then played a game that started at midday so as not to inconvenience TV.

They still beat Carlton 6 days later, who had been trying to make finals until that point, but Essendon beat the Suns in a game that should have been played at Metricon but was instead played at Geelong, while the Sydney game was played at Marvel, you know, that stadium just up the road from South Melbourne? In fact, when I saw that it was originally scheduled at the SCG I chalked it up as a win given the Suns have won twice there in the past few seasons – they actually beat the Hawks there in 2021 – but Marvel is a different story and the finals bound Swans trounced us.

The Suns final 8 games of the season were against teams in or fighting to get into the finals. They beat Richmond in Round 17 when the Tigers were in the top 8, then beat GWS in Round 18 which almost knocked the Giants out of contention. Then they came within 11 points of the Bulldogs, led the Lions at halftime before falling away without a ruckman, before the border closure at the end of July exiled them from their own state.

These aren’t excuses, they are just facts. The Suns have an easy draw this season, with doubles against North, Hawthorn, Collingwood, West Coast and the Lions, with only 9 games against 2021 finalists. Anyone who has done analysis on the Suns can see this is going to be their breakout year, yet the peanut gallery continues to repeat the narrative of the mainstream media. Slow clap.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

People keep saying the Bulldogs beat the Demons in the preseason last year, but I seem to recall the Dogs coming out and repeating the dose in the season proper.

Claims that Port didn’t treat the game seriously are disingenuous. The club packed up 30 players and all their support staff for a trip to Queensland to do more than play kick and giggle.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

It’s 20000 members, 1500 people have read the article so far and left over a hundred comments. What does that say?

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

I believe the 4kg stat, but nothing else in those figures. I’ve come to believe that both players and recruiters intentionally allow incorrect stats to be published. Last year, Alex was measured at 192cm, so I’ll go with that. Anderson is between 187 and 189cm.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

In 2022, the Roar discovered that numberdog guest was a 12yo girl and suddenly everyone understood her motivations and immaturity.

It’s ok, sweety. The Prime Minister has daughters too, you know, so he understands you better than anyone.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

Alex is 20 in a fortnight. With Bowes out and Constable yet to push through, it will be interesting to see how Davies is deployed. Swallow probably goes to the bench to
play midfield minutes, which means Fiorini’s spot is in danger.

Motel makes me wonder if they just go with two rucks and park them in either half when both are on the field. Moyle’s marking if outstanding. The only reason he didn’t get drafted is that he grew about 8 inches in his draft year and got a bit unco. He has a brother Ben who took over the ruck for Oakleigh and is actually eligible for SSP and MSRD.

Good problems to have.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

Which ones do you want? Jez McLennan? Chris Burgess?

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

This is the team that defeated Richmond, GWS and Sydney last year and just showed Port up. The improvement is obvious, but you didn’t watch it and you’re having trouble accepting it.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

That’s just it. The Suns aren’t young anymore. The majority of their players are 23 to 28, with none under 20 or over 30.

Funny how I say this and your reaction is to revert to the same thing people say every year. Sides evolve. The evidence was there last season, with the horrendous away schedule taking wins and percentage away from what should have been a better season.

But you just retreat into the safe conservative prediction of Suns bashers everywhere. It’s not like it was your idea in the first place.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

The Suns have 5 Indigenous players, just not all in the top side at once. Our captain have African-American heritage, we have two South Sudanese, 2 PNG boys, a Belorussian and Japanese. We have been an incredibly multicultural club.

My observation about Brisbane should also have said that 4 of those players have indigenous connections to Queensland and NT, while the other two have partners from here. It’s smart recruiting and Freo have done similar with your Claremont crew.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

Damien Barrett has come out and said the Suns have zero chance of making finals without Ben King.

Mark Robinson barked and shouted down the panel on Fox with a putrid display of belligerence and scorn that showed he’s done zero analysis on the Suns.

I’ve lost count of the number of podcasts I’ve had to painfully sit through as panellists lined up to bash the Suns armed with nothing except past result.

Then the side comes out playing an exciting brand of football with the greenest ruck to play this year, an untried forward line and no Hugh Greenwood.

But you’re right. Nobody watched it. You’d have to go to an obscure part of the Twittersphere to find some rough stats and do more than read the MSM reports to know what went down.

I could point out flaws in the Suns game and I could have raved about Matt Rowell as a lot of fans have been doing. But I liked that the team took risks and when structures broke down I saw some encouraging signs.

The subeditors certainly set the article up for the flack it has received, but they are paid to get people to read the article and they used words I wrote to construct the title.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

I think I’ve proven my foundation for optimism with data. I haven’t said they’ll win the flag, I said the team would improve. Ladder position is irrelevant as long as percentage is better (it was healthy last year until the final two games) and improvement is continuous. For now, Dew is the coach and we haven’t lost for 6 months. 8 to 10 wins would be a correction on last year, as you suggested, especially considering that the team only travels 11 times and not 15.

The rest of the improvement is coming from the incredible talent on the list. You think Hawthorn, North, Collingwood, West Coast and Adelaide are moving anywhere on the ladder from last year. That’s 9 wins for the Suns to grab right there if they are serious about finals, the kind of wins that took Melbourne to the finals in 2018.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

With the avalanche of media content vying to take a dump on the Suns, does there really need to be so much butthurt when one lone writer covers a game that none of the objectors even watched and gives a good review?

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

I did not know that. He is very outspoken about indigenous issues. Pretty sure he counts.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

Nah, I wouldn’t say that. I think Port have known they would need to rebuild while competing. The pieces are in place, Josh Sinn is going to fit in fine. Dixon back in the line up gives the forward line a dynamism. The goal kicking will sharpen up. I thought the Port boys looked slow at times, but there is some speed in the team. The Suns may have just been attacking the slower players, or just torching the defence by outnumbering really well. Ken will spin the magnets.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

There’s recency bias and there’s nostalgia. You can compare eras all you want, but the fitness and professionalism of the modern athlete would run absolute rings around those blokes. Talent was something the big clubs could buy in those days too, and Carlton cheated with the worst of them for the longest after the cap was introduced.
It is a tired argument that the preseason is meaningless and one that none here came up with on their own. It comes from coaches who actively made the preseason comp defunct by fielding B-grade teams and not treating games seriously in order to prepare for round 1 with their own time table.

This is 2022, where clubs play 1 practice match with extended lists and 1 practice match under in-season rules with 23 man squads. The games just concluded were far from meaningless hit outs for the coaches and in the Suns vs Port game there were two very strong teams playing in the first half and there was one team clearly on top.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

What, just like Richmond kicked two goals when the Suns kicked two goals at the end of their game? Or GWS? The fact is the Suns had 7 games decided by less than 2 goals, but only won 2. Of course, winning all 7 would be preposterous, but the fact that they put themselves in that position is the encouraging factor.

Where will they get the goals from is the question. Chol 3, Corbett 2, Davies 2, Sharp 2, Rankine 1 (plus 2 assists), Sexton 1 gave the indication that goals aren’t going to be as hard to come by as they were with undersized rucks and forwards. The defence opened up when Collins went off the field in the third quarter and didn’t return, whereas while he was on the unit repelled forward entries.

Witts and Lukosius didn’t even play, Sexton was on managed minutes and Rankine was thrown into the midfield late on or he might have had some junktime goals too. Day, Jeffrey and Hollands are other options to score goals. There’s no King, but there’s more options.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

1981 was Parkin’s first year at Carlton. Already a premiership coach at Hawthorn. I fail to see how a bunch of semi-pro blokes working day jobs and playing in a suburban competition has anything to do with the 2022 AFL preseason practice matches 3 weeks before the season begins.

'Force to be reckoned with': Suns unveil new game plan that will embarrass their critics

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