Gary-Ablett

Story Of The Summer

Campbell Brown again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons after breaking the jaw of fellow team mate Steven May during a fight in Los Angeles. It would prove to be the final straw with Brown released from the club in September. The timing wasn’t ideal with list management all but sewn up and Brown’s departure leaving a significant hole in the forward line, particularly from an experience perspective.

Despite the absence of Brown, the Suns look poised to make a significant leap in 2014 and have become a popular choice as a smoky for a debut appearance in September action. With only three wins on the board in 2012 the Suns somewhat surprised on their way to eight wins in the 2013 campaign. In the process Gold Coast has managed to turn Metricon Stadium in to somewhat of a fortress winning six of 11 games with their only losses by two points against Brisbane, a very competitive Adelaide outfit, and finals-bound Port Adelaide, Carlton and Fremantle. The next step for the Suns is building on that type of competitive momentum as increased expectations comes to the fold. Consistency and stability will be the key and 2013 suggests there’s plenty to build on as just two players featured in every game of the season.

From a personnel perspective Gold Coast held firm at the trade table over the off-season delisting five players with Jared Brennan the only notable casualty. In the draft the Suns added a top five pick in Kade Kolodjashnij to go with top 30 picks Jack Leslie and Sean Lemmens with the introduction of can’t-miss prospect Jack Martin further adding to the plethora of high end talent on the list.

Season 2014 promises to be an exciting one now the majority of teething issues have been conquered and the bodies have matured. The Suns are primed to upset a team or two and if all goes well maybe even give finals a shake.

Where they Excel

Gary Ablett remains the premier player of the competition and headlines one of the most talented midfields in the game today. With potential now being traded in for results it’s only a matter of time before Gold Coast see their engine room join the benchmarks of the competition. Behind Ablett, Jaeger O’Meara, Harley Bennell, Dion Prestia and David Swallow the Suns showed vast improvement in year three. As the talent further ripens the Suns should make another leap with improved skills under pressure and anticipation of player movement becoming the norm. As pure ball winners Gold Coast impressed but finding spread and utilising quick ball movement remain areas that still require significant work.

Season

Kicks

Effective Kicks

Kicking Efficiency

Contested Possession

Clearances

Inside 50s

Tackling Differential

2012

18th

17th

13th

18th

17th

17th

18th

2013

14th

12th

10th

12th

6th

13th

7th

Unearthing big man talent in Tom Nicholls further aids the Suns depth as Zac Smith recovers from injury with forward Charlie Dixon proving a viable pinch hitting option in the ruck. It was Gold Coast’s quality work at stoppages which set the tone for their squad as Guy McKenna opted for a see ball win ball mentality first before focusing on a more strategic approach.

This saw the Suns really take off when generating scoring punch from clearances. The transformation in output from the season prior was especially rewarding and underlined the makings of a truly talented group. Adding class in Jack Martin will only enhance Gold Coast’s prospects.

Season

Scores from Stoppages For

Scores from Stoppages Against

Scores from Stoppages Differential

2012

17th

18th

17th

2013

6th

9th

7th

Hiccups on the Horizon

There are two areas of struggle that go hand in hand with developing sides. The first is limiting turnovers which in today’s modern game practically make or break a result on their own. The second is waiting on key position talent to mature. Gold Coast has felt the wrath of both issues but was lucky enough to at least discover a quality gem up forward in Charlie Dixon who averaged 1.5 goals per game and showed versatility adding value around the ground contributing 10 hitouts per contest.

If the Suns’ forward line is to fire this season Charlie Dixon needs to stay healthy and a consistent key forward running mate must be brought to light with Gold Coast ranking sixteenth in the competition for marks inside 50 efficiency. Both Tom Lynch and Sam Day are up around the 50-game threshold and it’s now time to start delivering on the top 10 draft pick reputation. The pair has shown flashes, and if either can provide adequate foil for Dixon, the Suns’ slew of dangerous small forwards in Aaron Hall, Brandon Matera and Andrew Boston will be all the more lucrative in front of goal.

It’s only natural for skills, strength and endurance to increase over time and with the core cogs of the midfield now having three pre-seasons under the belt the turnover issue should start to tail off. When skills were down in 2013 the Suns were brushed aside with ease as teams decimated them on the counter attack. Improvement from 2012 to 2013 was evident and should be a heavy focus for Coach Guy McKenna.

Season

Scores from Turnovers For

Scores from Turnovers Against

Scores from Turnovers Differential

Turnovers

2012

17th

17th

17th

3rd

2013

15th

13th

14th

5th

The Skinny

They might still be a year away from really making some noise but the Gold Coast Suns are morphing into an impressive unit and one which should be feared as early as this season. The days of being a walkover are no longer and the path to success starts now. With a midfield set for years, All-Australian talent Rory Thompson as the brick wall of the defensive spine, enticing athletes in the ruck and a handful of key position prospects who look likely the Suns have an impressive platform to build for the future.

Gold Coast’s list profile suggests outside of injury or game plan issues a jump in performance is inevitable this season based on organic growth alone with eight players graduating to the 40+ games played threshold.

Year

0-39

40-99

100-149

150+

2013

36

4

3

3

2014

27

12

3

2

Difference

-9

+8

-1

The notable names who moved into the 40-99 bracket are all classy best 22 talents in Harley Bennell, David Swallow, Sam Day, Trent McKenzie, Dion Prestia, Luke Russell, Matt Shaw and Zac Smith. Another year of development is necessary but the Suns have the makings of a squad on the path to doing some serious damage down the line.

Finals aren’t out of the question although everything would have to go right coupled with everything going wrong for a handful of other sides. That being said Gold Coast is capable of winning 10 games this season which would be a more logical benchmark.

Ladder Range: 9-14

Best 22

B: S.Tape, M.Warnock, T.McKenzie

HB: G.Broughton, R.Thompson, D.Swallow

C: J.Harbrow, J.O’Meara, J.Martin

HF: H.Bennell, T.Lynch, C.Dixon

F: A.Hall, S.Day, A.Boston

Foll: T.Nicholls, G.Ablett, D.Prestia

Int: M.Shaw, L.Russell, D.Stanley

S: B.Matera

 

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

All data courtesy of AFL.com.au, Herald Sun, Footywire and Foxsports