Gold Coast finished 12th on the ladder in season 2022, winning a total of 10 games. (Photo: @GoldCoastSUNS Twitter / Design: Will Cuckson)

The 2022 AFL season marked Gold Coast’s 12th year in the competition, with the club still left searching for its maiden finals appearance. However, the continued emergence of young talent combined with off-field stability indicates that their time in the sun may just be around the corner. 

Finishing position: 12th (10 wins, 12 losses)

What worked?

When the news broke of key-forward Ben King rupturing his ACL at pre-season training in early February, questions began to emerge as to how Stuart Dew’s men were going to adapt in the forward-half. 

For a side which has traditionally struggled to kick winning scores, this seemed like a season-defining blow. However, a testament to their resilience and recruitment, the Suns unlocked different avenues to goal in 2022.

Recruits Mabior Chol and Levi Casboult produced career-best campaigns, combining for 79 goals across the course of the season. The pair provided Gold Coast with a strong focal point inside forward 50 and remained fit and healthy. 

Chol booted 44 goals, showcasing his power and athleticism which we only saw in glimpses at Richmond. Meanwhile, Casboult reminded the footy public of his contested marking prowess, also hitting the scoreboard to finish the season with 35 goals to his name. 

The Suns’ emerging midfield brigade also had a successful year, ranking fourth in the competition for both contested possessions and clearances. 

Led by co-captains Jarrod Witts and Touk Miller, the Suns enhanced their growing reputation as tough competitors in the middle of the ground. Miller averaged 28.5 disposals and 521.1 metres gained, culminating in him earning All-Australian and Club Champion honours for the second year running. 

Meanwhile, the development shown by youngsters Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson will also likely pay dividends in the years to come as they continue to establish themselves as high-quality AFL footballers.

Both Jarrod Witts (left) and Touk Miller (right) were selected in the All Australian squad of 44. (Photo: goldcoastfc.com.au)

More AFL Season Reviews:

AFL 2022 Season Review: Adelaide Crows

AFL 2022 Season Review: Essendon

AFL 2022 Season Review: GWS Giants

What didn’t?

Whilst it’s impossible to question the Suns’ grunt on the inside and at the coalface, their ability to dispose of the ball effectively by foot and hurt opposition sides on the outside let them down in season 2022.

The Suns ended the year ranked last for effective disposals and uncontested possessions, having also recorded the third most amount of clangers. 

There still also appears to be scope for improvement in sustaining a high-level of performance on a week to week basis. The Suns only won three out of a possible 11 games away from home. To make the step-up into the top eight, the club will likely need to improve on that record in 2023. 

Breakout stars:

Despite being on the Gold Coast Suns list since 2016, dynamic forward Ben Ainsworth produced his best season of football to date. The 24-year-old averaged 16 disposals, 1.1 goals and 6.7 score involvements per game, also leading the club for goal assists.

Ainsworth played every game of the season, the first time he’s done so in his 96-game career. This greater continuity saw him contribute consistently out on the field, booting 25 goals and being heavily involved in Gold Coast’s scoring chains. 

Noah Anderson, the number two pick from the 2019 AFL Draft, also elevated his game to another level in 2022. Anderson averaged a career-high 26.1 disposals, 5.6 clearances and 3.4 tackles, having shouldered more responsibility through the midfield. The 21-year-old’s efforts were reflected in him finishing runner-up in the Club Champion award.

Meanwhile, the highly touted Elijah Hollands also showed glimpses of his exciting potential. After earning a long-awaited AFL debut in Round 19, Hollands averaged 17 disposals, 6.8 contested possession and 4.8 score involvements across five games. 

A terrific individual performance against Hawthorn in Round 21 led to the 20-year-old earning a Rising Star nomination. Hollands amassed 23 disposals and kicked two goals on the day, albeit in a losing cause.

Highest point:

It’s hard to look past Gold Coast’s exhilarating two-point win over Richmond in Round 17. 

Not only did the match provide a thrilling conclusion, but it also embodied a level of character and spirit amongst the Gold Coast Suns playing group.

Trailing by 34 points at half-time and 28-points at three-quarter time, the Suns appeared destined to have their finals hopes evaporated. However, with a burning desire to atone from a crushing five-point loss to Collingwood the week prior, they stormed home in the final term to close the margin to within a kick. 

Enter Noah Anderson. Having marked the ball inside 50 with only seconds remaining, the 21-year-old had the chance to live out a childhood dream in kicking a winning goal after the final siren.

Unfazed by the enormity of the moment, Anderson slotted the goal with nerves of steel, sending Gold Coast fans into raptures and securing the club one of its most famous wins in its short history. 

Lowest point:

We often hear that a week is a long time in football. This certainly proved true in Round 18 against Essendon, as Gold Coast was unable to emulate its spirited performance from the week earlier.  

Still in the hunt for finals, the Suns failed to rise to the occasion, succumbing to a heavy 48-point defeat at the hands of an under-performing Bombers outfit.

This effectively ended any prospect of finals football in 2022. It also offered a brutal reminder of the work still to be done in establishing a level of consistency which is required to be a finals contender.

On what was a dirty day under the roof of Marvel Stadium, the Suns had a whopping 101 less uncontested possessions than the Bombers, also losing the contested possession count by 22 and inside 50s by 15. 

Where to next?

There is no doubt that the Suns will be expected, both internally and externally, to be playing finals football in 2023. 

With coach Stuart Dew offered a two-year contract extension in July, the powers that be at Gold Coast will be eyeing a tangible reward for their show of faith.

The 2022 campaign saw the Suns equal their most-ever wins recorded in a home and away season, which should serve as a launching pad for sustained future success.

In the short-term, the club will have to deal with the looming departure of livewire small forward Izak Rankine, who has been confirmed to have requested a trade to Adelaide. Acquiring appropriate compensation from the Crows will be paramount. 

The Suns will be boosted by the return of Ben King from injury, and will be looking to hit the ground running during pre-season.

Never in their history have the Suns been better positioned to propel themselves into the top eight. The time to strike is imminent. 

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