As we hit the bye rounds in the AFL season, The Inner Sanctum will be conducting our mid-season reviews of all 18 clubs and assessing the first half of the season and what fortunes may lie ahead.
Up next, Gold Coast Suns.
It has been an indifferent start to the season for the Gold Coast Suns who despite some excellent wins against Sydney, Collingwood, and Hawthorn, still find themselves on the brink of the bottom four.
Arguably the competition’s most underrated player, Suns stalwart Touk Miller has taken his game to a new level in 2021. With young-gun Matt Rowell going down just minutes into their season opener against West Coast, Miller has filled the void around the stoppage and added some real grunt and class to the on-ball brigade. Averaging an elite 29.8 disposals per game, Miller has gotten better as the season has gone on, with five straight performances of 30+ making him the Suns’ most prolific midfielder since Gary Ablett Junior. Coach Stuart Dew will be thrilled to have somebody he can rely on to have a consistent impact around stoppage and guide what is a very young Gold Coast midfield.
Ben King has also taken another step forward in his third season, with the 20-year old currently sitting fourth in the Coleman Medal tally with 32 majors. It is clear to see King has put considerable effort into his body over the off-season, with his bigger frame seeing him outmuscle seasoned defenders and garner more scoring opportunities.
Going into the season, the Suns were public in stating all their eggs when it came to the ruck department fell in the Jarrod Witts basket. So when the in-form co-captain went down clutching at his knee in the round three loss to Adelaide it was panic stations for Stuart Dew and his coaching staff who had no genuine option to replace him. The past two months have seen the likes of Caleb Graham, Chris Burgess, and Zac Smith take over the ruck duties and, while they have battled manfully, the part-time options have left the Suns vulnerable through the middle of the ground.
Their inconsistency has also come back to haunt them at points through the first half of the season, with all signs showing the list just is not mature enough to seriously contend for the finals. When at their best they have shown themselves to be an extremely strong team both offensively and defensively, however, these types of performances have few and far between, with uncompetitive showings against the Western Bulldogs in the first half and the Q-Clash against Brisbane, indicating there is still a long way to go for Stuart Dew’s men.
Best and Fairest contenders:
At the halfway point of the season, Miller is the clear front runner for the Suns’ best and fairest award courtesy of his impeccable consistency through the middle of the ground. Brandon Ellis has also enjoyed a fantastic year on the wing, averaging 25 disposals and eight marks a game in his second season as a Sun. While Jack Bowes has enjoyed great success with his shift to the half-back line, averaging 24 disposals and six marks a game at 77.7% efficiency.
Who needs to lift?
Despite kicking four goals in their 37-point win over Hawthorn last week, it has been a quiet start to livewire small forward Izak Rankine’s second season at AFL level. Managing just 13-goals from 11 matches, Stuart Dew would have expected more from the talented South Australian who showed last year he has the potential of being a game-breaker.
Expectations for the second half of the season:
With finals more than likely out of the equation, the Suns will be looking to see continued growth from their young players and build a game style that will bring sustained success. After his round one PCL injury, Matt Rowell is getting closer and closer to a return which will without a doubt bring extra life to the second half of the season for the Suns.
For Stuart Dew and this team though it is all about getting as many wins on the board as they can before the season ends as they look to build a platform for a finals assault in 2022.