Sun rising on young talent time at Gold Coast
IT'S been a rough few years for the Gold Coast Suns and it's tough to see them roaring up the AFL ladder.
But there is plenty to look forward to for a team stacked with some of the best young talent in the game.
EIGHT REASONS TO GET EXCITED ABOUT THE SUNS
YOUNG TALENT TIME
The Suns had as strong a hand as you could get in the 2018 'Super Draft', with three picks inside the top 10 who all look set to be beauties. Jack Lukosius, selected at pick 2, is a key forward who has been likened to former St Kilda star Nick Riewoldt and has already been playing against AFL-hardened bodies in the SANFL the past two years suggesting he is capable of early senior opportunities. Fellow South Australian Izak Rankine (pick 3) similarly debuted in the SANFL as a 16-year-old and is a classy midfielder with plenty of tricks, while Ben King (pick 6) is a versatile 202cm forward.
There are no expectations on the Suns whatsoever in 2019. Former Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd has said they will "be the worst list we've ever seen put on an AFL field", and it's hard to argue after the departures of co-captains Tom Lynch and Steven May during the trade period. Second-year coach Stuart Dew has a clean slate to work with, and with the pressure off and the spotlight away from the Suns it could prove beneficial as he looks to lay the foundations for the club's next premiership team.
Many commentators have said that the Suns will not win a game in 2019 but strange things happen in football. Remember Round 18 last year? Gold Coast played an in-form Sydney at the SCG and overcame a 29-point quarter-time deficit to score a 24-point win despite being $14 outsiders with the bookmakers going into the game. It goes to show that attitude is often more important than talent, and that victory will surely be in the back of the minds of Gold Coast players entering next season.
The trek to China to play a home-and-away game against Port Adelaide the past two years might have been good for the Gold Coast coffers and even the region's tourism but it has not been good for the team's on-field prospects. The Suns lost their first game in Shanghai by 72 points in 2017 and went on to suffer a 40-point loss to the Power at the same venue last season. The next game after the China trip also hasn't been pretty, the Suns losing heavily on both occasions including to Geelong by 85 points in 2018. However, the club has dumped the Shanghai game for 2019, giving it one less thing to worry about.
Gold Coast hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games was a boon for the region but far from ideal for the Suns. The unavailability of Metricon Stadium until June meant Gold Coast played its first nine games on the road, including hosting 'home' games in Perth, Brisbane and China. The interruption no doubt had an impact on the team, coach Stuart Dew labelling it a "different challenge" and one that he does not hope to or expect to see again. The Suns actually won three of their first five games but lost 11 on the trot after that, the travel toll quickly becoming evident. But, like China, that is all now a distant memory.
Don't expect huge things out of Gold Coast's trade acquisitions, but they help add some experience back into a squad that lost so many senior players to through trade, free agency and retirement. Anthony Miles has struggled to get a game at Richmond the past two seasons but is a capable ball-winner in the midfield who averaged 22.7 disposals from 19 games in 2016, while Corey Ellis was a Pick 12 in the 2014 draft but similarly struggled to break into the Tigers' potent midfield on a regular basis despite clearly having plenty of talent. George Horlin-Smith (Geelong) and Jack Hombsch (Port Adelaide) also come in, both set to start next season aged 26, providing hardened bodies the Suns are lacking.
Key forward Peter Wright, who has become known as 'Two-metre Peter', looked set to become one of the next big things in football at times in 2017 but battled his way through 2018. Wright played all 22 games in 2017 for a return of 31 goals but a persistent calf injury wiped out the first half of last season before the 203cm big man returned to play seven AFL games in the back half of the year. With Tom Lynch having departed for Richmond over the off-season, the Suns will be looking to Wright to own the forward line in his fifth season and the 22-year-old has shown enough to suggest he is capable of that.
RISING YOUNG GUNS
Amid a bleak 2018 which saw the club record its worst percentage since its debut season in 2011, the Suns did have some little wins in getting games into some potential future stars. Among them were midfield trio Will Brodie, Jack Bowes and Brayden Fiorini, who all particularly impressed their senior coach. Brodie and Bowes were both top-10 draft picks in 2016 who will enter their third seasons in 2019 and now have 11 and 27 games under their belts respectively. Fiorini suffered a leg injury that restricted him to 11 games in 2018, but big things are expected of the prolific ball-winner entering his fourth season.
2014: 12th (10-12)
2015: 16th (4-1-17)
2016: 15th (6-16)
2017: 17th (6-16)
2018: 17th (4-18)
18th ... Unfortunately for the Suns it isn't pretty no matter how you look at it, with their midfield, forward line and defence all rating 18th in the competition.
Source: CHAMPION DATA