17/04/2024

The Gold Coast Suns took on AFLW season six full of hope after their initial finals appearance in the aborted 2020 campaign, but also with a certain degree of trepidation after failing to win a game in 2021.

Last season:

10th (Three wins, one draw, six losses)

It is fair to say that last season was an up and down affair. The Suns had a very interrupted schedule, with COVID outbreaks shifting their fixture around massively. 

They played four games in three weeks, and the fatigue began to show towards the season’s close. They were handed heavy losses at the hands of Brisbane, Carlton, and Fremantle, despite showing promise early.

There were plenty of positive signs though, with the rise of youngsters Charlie Rowbottom and Claudia Whitfort, while new recruit Tara Bohanna exploded in the forward line.

Grinding out close wins against Geelong and Richmond and drawing with the Western Bulldogs, Gold Coast showed that it is slowly developing along with the rest of the competition.

What to look forward to:

It is difficult to imagine Gold Coast not finishing in the bottom four. The list that was starting to move up has been unable to regenerate quickly due to the expansion of the competition, and any improvement is likely to be gradual rather than immediate.

New coach Cameron Joyce has had an experienced array of coaches assembled to work with him, many of whom have a history working with the Gold Coast Academy from where many of the club’s players are drawn. 

They will be looking for small gains out of the year: a win or two would be wonderful, but theirs is a very young list and they will be hoping to see signs of development in the likes of 2021 draftees Rowbottom and Ashanti Bush, and Alana Gee and Claire Ransom from the 2022 crop.

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Biggest unanswered question:

Where will the leadership come from? A lot of experience has walked out of the door since the end of last season, with little coming back the other way.

Suns watchers will be buoyed by the return of Annise Bradfield from long-term injury, and the acquisition of solid citizen Courtney Jones from Carlton will help, but this will by-and-large be a team that learns on the job. 

That can be a positive if the mindset of the squad is strong, but too many more losses like those suffered in 2021 will quickly have a deflating effect.

It’s a big year for… 

Tara Bohanna. Recruited in 2021 from the Southern Saints in the VFLW, she takes over the captaincy from Hannah Dunn, who has been recruited by Port Adelaide for their maiden AFLW season. 

The 27 year-old forward has had leadership experience at VFLW level, but the AFLW presents a whole new challenge entirely.

She has been handed the captaincy role partly for her ability to act as a conduit between the younger and older members of the squad. 

The rebuild and regrowth that the Suns are undertaking in 2022 give Bohanna a blank canvas of sorts: the ability to mould the squad in her own image and lead by example as the side gels and develops.

Whether she can maintain her fantastic season six goalkicking form in addition to her newfound role will be an important part of the season.

More AFLW Season Previews

AFLW Season Seven Preview: Western Bulldogs

AFLW Season Seven Preview: Sydney Swans

AFLW Season Seven Preview: Essendon Bombers

Fixture highlights: 

The clash with Brisbane is one that Gold Coast always look forward to, and the hiding that they suffered in the corresponding match adds some extra spice to the encounter. 

Obviously the Suns will be looking to get that first win on the board sooner rather than later. After a tricky opening against the Kangaroos, they may be looking to the home game against West Coast Eagles in Round 2 as their best chance to do just that.

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They’ll get to close out their season with two of their last three games at Metricon Stadium, hopefully building momentum into next year.

Full fixture:

R1: vs. North Melbourne, August 27 (Blundstone Arena)

R2: vs. West Coast Eagles, September 4 (Metricon Stadium) 

R3: vs. Brisbane, TBC (Gabba)

R4: vs. St Kilda, TBC (Great Barrier Reef Arena)  

R5: vs. Port Adelaide, September 25 (Kombumerri Park)

R6: vs. Richmond, October 1 (Swinburne Centre)  

R7: vs. Sydney, October 8 (Henson Park)

R8: vs. Melbourne, October 15 (Metricon Stadium)  

R9: vs. Carlton, October 21 (Metricon Stadium)

R10: vs. GWS, TBC (Henson Park)  

Ins/Outs:

Ins: Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster (priority), Georgia Clayden (priority), Krystal Scott (priority), Courtney Jones (Carlton), Alana Gee (Southport), Claire Ransom (North Hobart), Jasmyn Smith (Bond University)

Outs: Janet Baird (Hawthorn), Hannah Dunn (Port Adelaide), Cheyenne Hammond (Port Adelaide), Sarah Perkins (Hawthorn), Brittany Perry (Port Adelaide), Kate Surman (Port Adelaide), Jacqui Yorston (Port Adelaide), Alana Barba (delisted), Dee Heslop (delisted)

Inactive: Maddi Levi (rugby commitments), Teagan Levi (rugby commitments), Jade Pregelj (injury)

Predicted Round 1 line-up: 

(Design: Will Cuckson)

Ladder range:

15th-18th

A developmental year looms for the young Suns girls, and any form of optimism in their style of play and their results will be a welcome bonus. 

Cameron Joyce and his coaching team will be looking much further than 2022, and will know that this side’s best chance of success will come a couple of years into the future. 

The build starts here, and those at Metricon Stadium are under no illusions otherwise.

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