It was another massive step forward in season seven for the Suns who just missed out on another finals berth (Photo: Gold Coast Suns/Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

After showing signs of improvement earlier in the year the Suns took a big step in their development in season seven. Despite missing finals, the team will continue to solidify their list and continue to grow to look towards finals next season.

Finishing position: 9th (5 wins, 5 losses)

What worked

There were many positives as the Suns further developed this year into a possible finals candidate, including their midfield dominance.

After last season saw her finish just one vote shy of the Rising Star, 2021 No.1 pick Charlie Rowbottom led the way and took her game to another level in midfield. Finishing with the third most clearances per game across the league (6.2), she also averaged a team-high 22.5 disposals & 13.7 contested possessions.

Alison Drennan was another star in their midfield, averaging 19.5 disposals, 3.7 clearances, 6.6 tackles, 2.7 score involvements and 3.5 inside 50s. Joining her in the middle was Claudia Whitford, who also had a stellar season, averaging 16.5 disposals, plus team highs in metres gained (255.3m) and inside 50s per game (four).

Forward duo Tara Bohanna and Courtney Jones, worked well in tandem finishing as the equal leading goalkickers for the Suns with eight goals. In her first season as captain, Bohanna averaged 8.5 disposals, 3.2 marks, 2.5 score involvements per game.

Jones impressed in her first season at the Suns coming across from the Blues, she was ultra-consistent with score involvements, tackles and disposals all part of what she brings to the side.

What didn’t

Despite Season Seven being the Suns most successful season in AFLW they still had their struggles, losing some matches that they were capable of winning. All five of their wins came against sides that would eventually finish in the bottom half of the table, with only one coming away from home against wooden spooners Sydney.

Whilst they only played top eight sides four times this season they struggled, losing all four matches against the North Melbourne, Richmond and Grand Finallists Brisbane and Melbourne. Their two defeats against the Lions and Demons saw them lose by a combined margin of 122 points.

Their lack of pressure was well below sides that finished both above them and beneath them, averaging the 15th most tackles (61.4 per game) and only being ahead of cellar dwellars West Coast and Sydney plus Essendon.

Gold Coast also lacked a spread of goalkickers throughout the season. Despite Jac Dupuy and Kalinda Howarth supporting Jones and Bohanna well in attack the Suns next best goalscorers were Ellie Hampson and Ashanti Bush with two goals each.

Breakout stars

There were many young players on Gold Coast’s list who took their game to the next level, including Ellie Hampson.

After slowly building her game since the Suns’ inaugural season, Hampson improved this year and became a key link in the chain from defence to attack. By season’s end she averaged the fourth most disposals in the team (15.3), 3.4 tackles, 1.8 rebound 50s and 2.3 inside 50s.

Up forward Dupuy managed to find her feet in her second season up forward. Rewarded with the Suns’ Coaches Award a few seasons ago, she kicked seven goals and averaged 10.4 disposals, 1.6 inside 50s, 2.3 score involvements plus an equal team-high 1.1 contested marks per game.

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Highest point

Whilst some may say their start to the season was one of the highest points for the club, it was their win against Carlton that gave their fans hope not just for the season, but for the future.

Needing a win to keep their slim finals aspirations alive and having never defeated Carlton, they started off slowly and trailed by one straight kick at half-time. However they clicked into gear in the second half, kicking six goals to one to give them their third biggest win of the season.

Rowbottom and Drennan once more dominated the midfield, while Jones also had a starring performance up forward with two goals and 13 disposals with this win being their final one of the season.

Lowest point

Cameron Joyce’s side suffered many heavy defeats in season 2022, however there was none more heavier or heartbreaking than the one at Punt Road Oval against Richmond.

In a tight tussle between two sides that had won three of their opening five matches, the Suns were on top of it from time on in the second quarter. However a late goal from Emelia Yassir in the fourth saw the Tigers get hope by four points despite a late push from the Suns.

Rowbottom was the star once more in midfield, whilst Lauren Bella fought gallantly all day in ruck against Gabby Seymour. Despite the fact that they finished one and a half games out of the four, this defeat would cost Gold Coast a top eight position and finals.

Where to next?

Following their finishing position to the year there’s still plenty more to come for the Suns who’ll look to develop even further in 2023.

With a young core led by Rowbottom all that’s now missing for the Suns is another seasoned veteran of the AFLW who can help guide the younger players as well as lead alongside the likes of Drennan, Vivien Saad and Bohanna.

The only way is up now for Gold Coast who’ll hope to gain a second ever finals berth not just in the AFLW, but possibly in the clubs history.

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