Sporting a young list that is the envy of the competition, the Gold Coast Suns look set to improve again in 2021 as they eye a maiden finals birth.
Littered with up and coming stars across the ground, it is easy to overlook a number of the team’s most important contributors who every week go about playing their roles and building a strong culture.
Athletic half forward turned defender Wil Powell fits this mould to perfection, as the unheralded 21 year old consistently puts his body on the line and does all he can to help the team win.
The type of player that helps build successful football clubs, Powell’s work has not gone unnoticed within the four walls of the Suns with the team recently re-signing the Western Australian to a four year contract extension.
Speaking with The Inner Sanctum and Down The Line, Powell could not be more excited to be recommitted to the Suns and the direction the club is heading.
“It feels amazing,” Powell said.
“It’s very humbling that an AFL club wants you for another four years so it’s a pretty special feeling.
“As a club we are all just so young and eager to learn and the synergy just keeps growing, every session we are out there together we continue to get better and better.
“It’s just a matter of time before it just clicks and it really feels like the perfect place for me to be.”
The 2020 season would see the Suns surprise many and breakout from perennial cellar dwellers into genuine competitors against some of the league’s best sides.
Although the campaign would only yield five victories, Powell says it was a critical learning curve for the young group.
“We had about three or four games decided by under a goal against some pretty good sides, and we beat a few very good sides too last year,” he said.
“We’ve taken a lot of confidence out of that and we had had another pre season to get the game plan under wraps as well.
“Everyone is very keen to get the season started and kick it off in a positive way.”
Projected to be one of the big risers in 2021, Powell could not speak highly enough of the work his teammates have done through the pre season, with one midfielder in particular standing out.
“The preseason has been very good, it’s been a bit different to last year in terms of training loads and everything,” he said.
“Touk Miller has been my stand out during the pre season he’s just a bull, his work ethic and the amount of work he puts in on and off the field not just physically but mentally to make sure he’s right for every single session, it is very cool to watch.”
The pre season has also seen some changes to the coaching department, with former North Melbourne senior coach Rhyce Shaw joining the ranks in a development role.
Powell highlights of the incredible impact he has made during his short time at the club.
“He is amazing,” Powell said.
“We’ve got this little group called the factory, which is the first to four year players and he runs that like a little education centre, just teeing up with the younger players and building solid relationships with everybody in the group.
“He has been awesome for myself especially, I went through a little patch of mental health battles and just talking to him it made it so much easier as he has also been through some tough stages.”
Now entering the new season with heightened expectation in comparison to previous years, Powell says the outside noise doesn’t phase this determined group.
“I think there is expectation every season, there’s expectation to perform well every game so there’s not really anything different,” he said.
“We all expect to run out there and win and we give it our best shot, but I think we are going to knuckle down and win a few more games.”
From a personal perspective, Powell is excited to continue the excellent form he showed last season and experience some greater continuity in his football.
He talks about his extensive injury history and how it has shaped his career.
“With the knee [injury] it was difficult as I ended up having three surgeries on the same thing and just could not get it right,” he said.
“That taught me to be more patient and not rush into things, which helped me with my concussions as the brain is a very special part of the body and when you think you’re ready you probably need another week.
“At the moment I am good with no injuries, but I am glad that [my injury concerns] happened earlier on than later in my career as I have a better understanding of my body and what it can handle.”
On the field, 2020 saw Powell thrive in a new role across half back with his consistency and dedication to the team seeing him finish eighth in the club’s best and fairest award.
He now hopes to become a permanent fixture in the Suns exciting young back six moving forward.
“I loved the move,” he said.
“I’ve always sort of niggled the back line coach Josh Drummond saying when are you going to bring me back, when am I going to get a go, then it sort of just happened.
“I played a bit back there in my under 18’s year and you just get to see the whole game giving you the ability to place yourself in the right spot early.
“Hopefully I get to stay apart of the back line for my whole career as it is a pretty great position to play and the group we have down there has a great connection and synergy.”
Coming off such a strong initial campaign as a defender, Powell takes a lot of confidence moving into a new season.
“I take a lot of confidence [out of last year],” he said.
“I’ll continue to just keep playing footy the way I play, putting my body on the line for the team and doing everything I can for the team, so to get rewarded with things like a top then best and fairest finish it does give you a little confidence boost.”
His main goals for the year stem around this idea of continued development both personally and as apart of the collective squad.
“Our main goals [for the new season] are to continue to build synergy through the team, play good hard competitive football and become a hard side to play against whilst getting some wins on the board,” he said.
“For myself it’s about putting on size and getting fitter and stronger as the season progresses.”