After 79 games for the Saints, Ben Long has been traded to the Gold Coast Suns along with a future fourth-round pick in exchange for pick 32 in this year’s draft.
He arrived in a pair of Suns deals to come through on Wednesday afternoon as Brisbane traded Tom Berry, pick 46 and a future second-round selection to Gold Coast for picks 25, 36 and 56. It gives Brisbane the extra draft points to match bids for father-son duo Will Ashcroft and Jaspa Fletcher.
The Saints swingman played all around the ground in 2022, even lining up on the wing through the bye period. It’s expected the Suns will utilise him as an intercepting defender after his career-best showing against the Swans in Round 23.
Long had career highs in almost all stats, most notably having 17 marks and 13 intercept possessions as he almost single-handedly stopped the Swans’ dreams of finishing inside the top two.
He ended with 27 disposals, five contested marks and a goal as he picked up the two Brownlow votes, doubling his career tally.
Long attracted trade attention last September before deciding to remain at Moorabbin, ultimately being the right choice for the club as he made a career-high 19 appearances under Brett Ratten in 2022.
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Where will he play at the Gold Coast?
Gold Coast’s General Manager of Player Talent and Strategy Craig Cameron said the club has identified Long as a player to fill their defensive gaps next season.
“We identified Ben as a player who could come in and shore up our half-back stocks, especially given we will be missing a couple of best 22 players from there early next season,” Cameron said.
“He will be able to play in a lockdown role but also has the ability to win the ball as well as a rebound defender.
“We see Ben as a great fit for our club given his toughness around the contest, and he comes to us with some valuable experience at AFL level.”
The defensive versatility of Long will be invaluable to Gold Coast, who will see the exit of Jack Bowes due to salary issues.
How does he help their defence?
If Ben Long realises his potential from his game against the Swans and produces half of that output for a season, the Gold Coast defence will be better off. The likes of Sam Collins and Caleb Graham won’t be under pressure as often.
In 2022, the Suns conceded 51.4 inside 50s on average – 13 more than the league average. They also allowed teams to operate six per cent more efficiently when they move the ball inside 50 against the Suns, already giving the opposition roughly seven more chances at goal than an average side.
The opportunity to bring in an experienced defender capable of playing as the third, intercepting defender should finally fill the chasm that has been lacking from Gold Coast’s back half. Over the last decade, any team destined to become competitive had a regular defender of that mould.
Losing Bowes, Izak Rankine and potentially Brayden Fiorini has the potential to draw back the club, however, stabilising the salary cap for 2023 appears a priority.
He may not be the final piece of Gold Coast’s puzzle, but the addition of Ben Long and the return of Ben King will be more than welcome inclusions to the Gold Coast side in 2023.
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