23/04/2024

Can the Suns rise or will they continue to fall in 2022? Photo: Gold Coast Suns/Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson

It’s been a struggle for the Gold Coast Suns over the last few seasons, largely through injuries to key players derailing impressive starts to recent seasons. With a list stocked full of young talent, 2022 looms as a make-or-break year for this football club and senior coach Stuart Dew.

It’s been a struggle for the Gold Coast Suns over the last few seasons, largely through injuries to key players derailing impressive starts to recent seasons. With a list stocked full of young talent, 2022 looms as a make-or-break year for this football club and senior coach Stuart Dew.

Last year:

16th (7-15), 76.8%

Coming into 2021 with plenty of young talent and after another promising start to the 2020 season, the Suns struggled to make an impact at the tail end of the season last year.

They started off in good form, winning three of their first seven games, including two in a row against red-hot Sydney and 2020 finalists Collingwood at the MCG.

Following a slight drop in form after those two wins, they made shockwaves when they defeated reigning premiers Richmond. However, after that landmark win, they started to falter, losing five of their last six by an average of 63 points to finish in 16th place.

Completing their 10th season in the competition, they are still yet to appear in the finals.

The Suns were led by superstar Touk Miller, who finished the season with his first All-Australian selection. Young forward Ben King showed his potential with 47 goals whilst Wil Powell also showed plenty of promise in a new role down back.

Ins:

Mac Andrew (Pick 5 – Dandenong Stingrays), Sandy Brock (Rookie Draft Preselection – Gold Coast Academy/Peel Thunder), Levi Casboult (Pick 3 Rookie Draft – Carlton) Mabior Chol (Free Agent – Richmond), Charlie Constable (Pick 63 – Geelong), James Tsitas (Supplementary Selection Period), Bodhi Uwland (Rookie Draft Preselection – GC Academy/Broadbeach)

Outs:

Will Brodie (Trade – Fremantle), Aiden Fyfe (Delisted), Hugh Greenwood (Delisted Free Agent – North Melbourne), Jarrod Harbrow (Retired), Jack Hombsch (Delisted), Jordan Murdoch (Retired), Zac Smith (retired), Luke Towey (Delisted), Jacob Townsend (Retired)

Track watch

Possibly the biggest story out of this pre-season is the loss of Ben King, who ruptured his ACL earlier this month at a training session and is set to miss the entire 2022 season.

It is a massive blow not just for the Suns, but for King who was coming off a career-best season and was set to lead Gold Coast’s forward line again this year.

Having gone back to midfield this pre-season, Jack Bowes is set to miss the first part of the season after undertaking shoulder surgery late last month.

He’s been through the rigours this preseason, but Jeremy Sharp could be set for a big year after he won Gold Coast’s Emerging Player Award last year.

2021 Magarey Medallist James Tsitas has been rewarded for his efforts in the SANFL with the Suns’ final list spot. He edged out ex-St Kilda and Collingwood midfielder Nathan Freeman.

What to look forward to

Whilst injuries might play a part this year again, Suns fans should be excited about potentially seeing former number one pick Matt Rowell play a full season this year.

He didn’t have the greatest second half of 2021 on return from a PCL injury sustained in Round 1, but the young superstar has reportedly been training the house down this pre-season and dominated in a match simulation sessions.

With the loss of Ben King, number five pick Mac Andrew could be set to come in and play a big role this year. Ex-Carlton tall Levi Casboult could be selected over him, but if Andrew players Round 1, the ruck-forward will bring a different dimension to the Gold Coast ruck and forward group.

Co-captain Jarrod Witts could also return during the season following an ACL injury last year. Since joining the Suns from Collingwood he has consistently performed and will play a big role when he returns to their line-up.

It’s a big year for:

Sam Day has been a mainstay and a key figure since the Suns’ inaugural season. And now with the loss of Ben King for the year, the 2022 season could be another chance to properly establish himself as the main figure in the Suns forward line.

He isn’t the tallest forward around, however, he does have the strength and the athleticism to compete with some of the better defenders.

2021 wasn’t his best year, playing only six games after being named in every game in a shortened 2020 season. And injuries, as well as consistency, have been a concern for him throughout his career.

His goal-kicking ability still hasn’t been proven, with his highest goal tally in a season of 19 coming back in 2014. But now with King out for 2022, he needs to stay injury-free, find consistency and play with a killer instinct around goal in order for the Suns to lift this year.

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Biggest unanswered question

Can Gold Coast find a target inside forward 50?

The Suns had many problems last year, but their biggest issue was finding a target inside their attacking 50. Losing their biggest and best key forward does not help that at all.

Getting into their 50 was no problem (average of 48.7 inside 50s per game), but finding a mark once inside was by far their biggest problem.

Despite having the tall timber of Sam Day and Josh Corbett, plus the creativeness of Izak Rankine, Noah Anderson, and later in the season Jack Bowes, the Suns still only averaged 9.3 marks inside 50 per game, the worst across all AFL teams.

Whilst King did average 2.1 mark’s inside 50 per game, Corbett wasn’t too far behind with 1.9. Their next best was young Joel Jeffrey who only played four games in 2021 with 1.3.

One player who could play a role in increasing that average is new recruit Levi Casboult. Despite being past his prime, he’s still able to pluck a mark whether it be contested or inside 50, averaging 1.6 inside 50 and two contested marks per game across his 10-year career.

Jeffrey could also play a role too in getting those marks inside 50. However, the Suns still need to find other players if they are to get those crucial marks inside 50 with their key target out for this season.

Coach pressure index:

Very High

This’ll be Stuart Dew’s fifth season in the hot seat on the Gold Coast and in the last few seasons, the Suns have shown only the smallest of improvements.

In 83 games across his first four seasons, Dew has only won 19, drawn once, and lost 63 games. Despite this record, CEO Mark Evans is still backing him in to coach the Suns to their first-ever finals appearance.

Whilst it is still a fairly young group, Dew has had plenty of time to rebuild this club. And if they don’t get wins or challenge for finals this year, then he will have to start looking for a new coaching gig.

Predicted Round 1 lineup:

Design: Will Cuckson

Ladder Range:

15th-18th

Whilst they could surprise many as they did in some games last year, it could be yet another struggle for the Suns in 2022.

They’ll be without their best forward for the entire season and they’ll still miss some of their best players like Witts and Bowes early on this year.

Rowell, Anderson, Jack Lukosius and Miller will be key for them if they are to improve this year. But if any of them miss long periods during the season, they could be set to struggle.

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