The Inner Sanctum presents the Gold Coast Suns 2022 AFLW Season Preview. (Photo: Gold Coast FC)

After a winless season in 2021, a new coach and plenty of fresh faces could make the world of difference for the Gold Coast Suns.

The Gold Coast Suns will (hopefully) face their first COVID-unaffected season this year after making their competition debut in 2020.

Last season:

14th (0-0-9)

After making finals in their first season, the Suns dropped off a cliff in 2021 and failed to register even a single victory.

They came within one point of fellow expansion side West Coast in Round 5, but also suffered three 10 goal or more losses across the course of a difficult year.

This came in part due to a difficult fixture which saw Gold Coast play five games straight away from home, travelling from New South Wales to Western Australia to South Australia before returning to Metricon Stadium. With matches against premiers Brisbane, runners up Adelaide and finalists Fremantle, luck was not on Gold Coast’s side.

Compounding this was a season ending ACL injury to talented young midfielder Jacqui Yorston in the pre-season, goalkicker Sarah Perkins rupturing her MCL halfway through the year, and Jamie Stanton finishing her season early with an ankle injury.

With various players unable to capture their 2020 form, the Suns limped to the finish line to make it nine straight home and away losses.

What to look forward to:

Simply put, look forward to a new squad under a new coach with a new game style.

Cameron Joyce led a Tasmania Devils side in the NAB League that saw local talents Perri King and Ella Maurer drafted by North Melbourne.

The former Roos GM of Football’s background in working with young talent will translate excellently to a Gold Coast group packed to the brim with rising stars.

Eight new Suns pulled on the guernsey for the first time in the practice game loss to Brisbane, including Claudia Whitfort, Charlie Rowbottom, Shannon Danckert, Tara Bohanna, Ashanti Bush, Alana Barba, Giselle Davies, and Vivien Saad.

Gold Coast’s additions are a mix of new draftees, players elevated from the state leagues, and those traded in from elsewhere.

Danckert and Jacqueline Dupuy from the QAFLW and Barba and Bohanna from the VFLW will be scrapping tooth and nail to prove that they are AFLW level players, all mature agers that have been overlooked in the past.

Suddenly finding themselves with strong midfield depth of both veterans, newbies, and journeywomen alike, expect the Suns to be one of the most exciting teams to watch.

Biggest unanswered question:

In addition to finishing winless last season, the Suns were both the second worst offensive team and the worst defensive team by points for and against.

Jade Pregelj and Lauren Ahrens were often left weathering the opposition storm on their lonesome. While they would perform admirably, the dam wall breaks eventually.

Even when the midfield group was firing, they often had very little to kick to, but with the additions made across both lines, this should hopefully be a worry of the past.

Of the players they recruited, many are capable of playing roles both across the midfield and forward lines, including number one pick Charlie Rowbottom.

Standing at 178cm, Rowbottom can be utilised either as a contested ball winner midfielder, or a marking target up forward. The same can be said about Tara Bohanna, though she is also a handy pinch-hitting ruck.

Rowbottom kicked 10 goals in her 11 games with the Oakleigh Chargers this season, while also averaging 17.6 disposals and 7.1 tackles.

Bohanna kicked 19 goals in 16 games for the Southern Saints, averaging 16.8 disposals and 7.2 hit outs, while Barba kicked 11 goals in 17 games, a smaller crumbing option.

Add in the experienced Jamie Stanton and Kate Surman who are more than capable across both lines, and you have a multi-faceted Gold Coast side in its attacking half.

How these players help to create a dynamic game style under Joyce remains to be seen, but should it all come together, the Suns will look entirely different to 2021.

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After a breakout 2020 season which saw her kick nine goals in seven games and earn All-Australian selection, forward Kalinda Howarth was unable to repeat her efforts last year. The 22-year-old only hit the scoreboard three times in 2021.

In Howarth’s defence, the Suns midfield group lacked the firepower to deliver the ball to her advantage. And with Jamie Stanton and Sarah Perkins injured, she had no one dishing the ball off her or a marking option to crumb off.

At her best, the explosive forward is a match-winner with an innate sense for finding the middle of the sticks.

Former coach David Lake gave Howarth a run on the wing throughout the middle of the season to try and play her into form.

It seemed to be paying dividends, as she picked up an equal career-high 18 disposals in back-to-back games against Adelaide and Richmond, with 405 metres gained and three marks in the latter.

When she then did return to the forward line for the Round 9 match-up with Geelong, Howarth kicked two goals, took six marks and had 13 disposals in what was a major return to form.

With news faces including Charlie Rowbottom, Ashanti Bush, Alana Barba, and Tara Bohanna all likely to rotate through the forward line, coach Cameron Joyce may be able to utilise Howarth in a more versatile role.

She’s proven herself a very capable winger, and with more support up forward, may be set for a year where she can flourish both deep in the goal-square and higher up the ground.

Fixture highlights:

Gold Coast will miss three of last year’s finalists in Adelaide, Fremantle, and North Melbourne, a nice reprieve after last year’s difficult fixture.

It will play home games at three different stadiums at least. Of the currently fixtured matches this includes one in Mackay, one at Fankhauser Reserve, home of the Southport Sharks, and three at Metricon Stadium.

The Suns open their season at home against the Giants, mirroring the reverse match-up in their inaugural game. They’ve yet to beat them, but this will be the first time they play them at home.

Undoubtedly their hardest match will come against reigning premiers Brisbane in the third QClash. Gold Coast will look to redeem themselves after coming so close with a draw in 2020, and a loss last year. Similarly, a trip to Casey Fields against premiership fancies Melbourne could be a nightmare waiting to happen.

The Suns will be happy to take on Richmond, Geelong, and St Kilda at home, and would be hoping to find two wins out of those matches.

They’ll face Collingwood for the first time in their last game of the year, the last team they have yet to play in their three seasons of AFLW.

Full fixture:

R1: vs. GWS, Jan 9 (Great Barrier Reef Arena)
R2: vs. West Coast, Jan 15 (Mineral Resources Park)
R3: vs. Brisbane, Jan 22 (Metricon Stadium)
R4: vs. Richmond, Jan 28 (Metricon Stadium)
R5: vs. Melbourne, Feb 6 (Casey Fields)
R6: vs. Geelong, Feb 13 (Fankhauser Reserve)
R7: vs. Western Bulldogs, Feb 20 (VU Whitten Oval)
R8: vs. St Kilda, Feb 27 (Metricon Stadium)
R9: vs. Carlton, TBC
R10: vs. Collingwood, TBC


Ins: Claudia Whitfort (St Kilda), Vivien Saad (North Melbourne), Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers), Teagan Levi (Bond University), Ashanti Bush (Darwin Buffettes), Giselle Davies (Bond University), Alana Barba (Essendon VFLW), Tara Bohanna (Southern Saints), Shannon Danckert (Bond University), Jacqueline Dupuy (Maroochydore)

Outs: Sam Virgo (retired), Sally Riley (retired), Georgia Bevan (delisted), Jordann Hickey (delisted), Molly Ritson (delisted), Leah Kaslar (delisted), Paige Parker (delisted), Jasmyn Hewett (Adelaide)

Inactive: Annise Bradfield (injury), Emma Pittman (work), Maddison Levi (rugby), Teagan Levi (rugby)

Round 1 line-up:

Photos: Gold Coast FC, Design: Will Cuckson

Gold Coast didn’t play young midfield star Jacqui Yorston in its practice match against Brisbane, and will likely play it safe in Round 1 after her ACL at the start of 2021. Otherwise, she’s easily straight into the centre bounce.

Ladder range:


The Suns won’t be pushing up to finals in 2022, but should look to claim a couple of wins and break their losing streak.

In an ideal world, they could finish at the very least above Carlton and St Kilda. With plenty of new faces however, 10 games is not a lot of time to build chemistry and return to the firecracker 2020 campaign.

Gold Coast is a side that seems to love to defy expectations. However, it will be a hard task to push above 10th or 11th with teams like West Coast, Geelong, and Richmond likely improving around them.

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