Story of the Summer
One could say the Gold Coast Suns have shed their expansion moniker over the off-season. On the back of a disappointing 2014 that promised a finals birth but petered out into nothingness, the Suns have gone on a bold recruiting mission both on-field and off it with a view to finally cracking a top eight spot in 2015.
In a chaotic six days in October last year, Gold Coast sacked inaugural coach Guy McKenna and picked up veteran Sydney Swans defender Nick Malcelski. If the Suns do in fact make finals this year, it will be this period in 2014 that ultimately put the wheels in motion.
In what was a somewhat shambolic press conference, Suns chairman John Witheriff delivered a bizarre homage to McKenna, calling him a “great man” and citing his “extraordinary contribution” to the club despite sacking him just a few hours earlier. It reeked of a club that was still dogged by their expansion tag, something they’ll look to move past as the AFL’s second newest club matures.
Rodney Eade was appointed at the end of October, a clear sign of intent that the Suns mean business in 2015. Having coached a combined 315 games at Sydney and the Western Bulldogs respectively, Eade brings a wealth of experience that will benefit the plethora of youth at the club. He’s also spent some time as director of coaching at Collingwood and it’ll be interesting to see how that has changed him as a senior coach.
It was an eventual summer on the glitter strip but it is one that Suns chiefs hope pays dividends come finals time.
Where They Excel
The midfield, oh that glorious midfield. It’s not hard to justify the hype surrounding the Gold Coast Suns this season when you take one look at who they’ll deploy in the middle of the park in 2015.
O’Meara, Prestia, Swallow and Bennell are all under 23 years old and have their best football ahead of them. It’s enough football talent to make you go weak at the knees. Of course, it helps they have arguably one of the greats of the modern game still playing good football at 30 in Gary Ablett, and his leadership has only contributed to the rise of the Suns.
Add in the more experienced heads of Stanley, Rischitelli and even Raines and it’s easy to see where the improvement comes from this season.
The Suns midfield will look to top their 272 centre clearances last year and improve on their 12th place ranking. If the brigade of young midfielders starts to fire this season, there won’t be too many teams who’ll be able to stop them.
Where They Struggle
Disposal efficiency is one of the most important statistics in the game. In the crucial periods of the season, it is the ability to use and deliver the ball successfully that is often the difference between two sides. For the Suns, they’ll need to improve in this area if they are any chance of exceeding last year’s disappointing 12th place.
Gold Coast’s efficiency with the ball last season was at an alarming 70.1%, ranking them last of all sides. In a young side it’s not hard to see why that may be the case but with the experienced Rodney Eade now at the helm, it is a stat that they’ll be no doubt looking to improve on.
It all seems to be coming together for the Suns this season but if they are to finally break through and play finals football for the first time, their ball usage simply has to get better.
The Year Ahead
After a 2014 season that promised so much but in the end delivered a pittance, the Gold Coast Suns look ready to burst out of their embryonic expansion cocoon and become a heavy-hitter of the AFL.
Nick Malceski and Rory Thompson in the backline, Gary Ablett jnr and Jaeger O’Meara in the midfield and Say Day and Tom Lynch up forward is an imposing spine that will trouble most sides this year.
The key for the Suns is to make Metricon Stadium a fortress. They lost just four of their 11 games at home last season, with three of those losses coming to Hawthorn, Sydney and Port Adelaide respectively.
The warmer climate is no doubt an advantage for the Suns and as Victorian sides exit Melbourne’s bitter winter cold, the weather could very well play a part in Gold Coast’s fortunes at home.
Many are predicting them to push the top four and if this is to eventuate, winning most if not all of their home games at home is the key.
Ladder range: 5-10
B: Trent McKenzie, Steven May, Danny Stanley
HB: Greg Broughton, Rory Thompson, Nick Malceski
C: Jaeger O’Meara, David Swallow, Michael Rischitelli
HF: Jack Martin, Tom Lynch, Harley Bennell
F: Sam Day, Charlie Dixon, Brandon Matera
Foll: Tom Nicholls, Gary Ablett, Dion Prestia
Int: Jarrod Harbrow, Mitch Hallahan, Kade Kolodjashnij
Sub: Adam Saad