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Footyology countdown: Can the Suns start shining again?


The dejected Suns after another loss. Can new coach Stuart Dew instill some character in a list with talent, but little resilience? Photo: AFL MEDIA

Footyology countdown: Can the Suns start shining again?

Rohan Connolly    

GOLD COAST
2017 record: 6 wins, 16 losses (17th)
List age ranking (oldest to youngest): 18th
List experience ranking (most to fewest games): 16th
Footyology draw ranking (easiest to hardest): 6th

THE INS
Lachie Weller (Fremantle), Aaron Young (Port Adelaide), Harrison Wigg (Adelaide), Wil Powell (Claremont), Charlie Ballard (Sturt), Brayden Crossley (Palm Beach Currumbin), Connor Nutting (Broadbeach), Josh Jaska (Geelong Falcons), Nick Holman (Central District), Jacob Dawson (Palm Beach Currumbin), Jacob Heron (Cairns Saints)

THE OUTS
Gary Ablett (Geelong), Adam Saad (Essendon), Brandon Matera (Fremantle), Trent McKenzie (delisted/Port Adelaide), Matt Shaw (delisted/Carlton), Jarrad Grant (delisted), Mitch Hallahan (delisted), Keegan Brooksby (delisted), Ryan Davis (delisted), Cameron Loersch (delisted), Daniel Currie (delisted)

THE BEST 22
B: Kade Kolodjashnij, Steven May, Sean Lemmens
HB: Jarrod Harbrow, Rory Thompson, Pearce Hanley
C: Touk Miller, Jarryd Lyons, Aaron Hall
HF: Jack Martin, Peter Wright, Callum Ah Chee
F: Ben Ainsworth, Tom Lynch, Sam Day
Foll: Jarrod Witts, David Swallow, Lachie Weller
Inter: Aaron Young, Matt Rosa, Jack Bowes, Brayden Fiorini
Emerg: Michael Barlow, Alex Sexton, Jesse Joyce

THE PROGNOSIS
The good news is that first-year coach Stuart Dew, particularly given the departure of Gary Ablett, a man whom for so long pretty much was the Suns, has effectively a blank canvas with which to work in 2018. The bad news is it’s going to take some time to paint anything of substance.

It’s not that Gold Coast doesn’t have talent. Besides established stars Tom Lynch, Steven May, Aaron Hall, Jarrod Witts, a real up-and-comer in Peter Wright and a couple of handy imports in Lachie Weller and Aaron Young, there’s a clutch of kids like Touk Miller, Ben Ainsworth Jack Martin, Callum Ah Chee, Jack Bowes, Brayden Fiorini and Will Brodie who can definitely play.

They’ll have another virtual recruit in key position player Sam Day, who has returned from a serious hip injury and will be a welcome addition to a forward set-up which lacked some serious teeth last season.

Key defender Rory Thompson is another about whom fingers will be crossed. Very capable, leg injuries held him to only seven games last season, and indeed, he hasn’t played any more than 14 in any of the last three years.

Throw Day and Thompson into a spine containing Lynch and Wright and Gold Coast looks much, much better on paper. But so often with the Suns, perception and reality have differed vastly.

There’s always been a softish underbelly to the Suns, and it hardly got any tougher under previous coach Rodney Eade, Gold Coast ritually completely disappearing from matches and perennially weak in the harder aspects of the game.

That mental fragility was underlined in some absolute poundings in 2017, most notably at the hands of Port Adelaide (115 and 72 points), GWS (102), Adelaide (67) and Sydney (67).

And there’s challenges others than just good opponents for Gold Coast in 2018, with the Commonwealth Games forcing them off their Metricon Stadium home until round 11 in early June. The game might already be well and truly up by then.

Perhaps, like Paul Roos initially at Melbourne, Dew’s first focus will be on at least shaving a fair whack from the points conceded column. And as a long-time Sydney assistant coach, he’s had plenty of practice in drilling his players in proficiency at the contest.

Defensive running might be another focus, for the often handball-happy Suns too often have been a lot keener to do the hard yards running and linking up towards goals than away from them.

Ultimately, the credibility of an entire football club, not just a team, is now on the line at Metricon Stadium. I think Dew might have some successful in at least making the Suns harder to play against. But there’s a still a long way to go, even from there.

THE PREDICTION
18th. Might pinch the odd win here and there, particularly in the run home, but a wooden spoon still looms.

THE LADDER SO FAR…
18. GOLD COAST

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