The Suns were downhill in skiers 2017; everything that could’ve gone wrong, did. Rodney Eade was sacked after notching just 16 wins from 63 matches in his tenure up north which spanned over three seasons, while Gary Ablett (Geelong), Adam Saad (Essendon), Brandon Matera (Fremantle), Matt Shaw (Carlton) and Trent McKenzie (Port Adelaide) all have a new place to call home in 2018.
The positive for the Suns is they get to start from scratch, and Stuart Dew is likely to do plenty of experimentation with the list that ranks as the youngest in the league.
The start of Gold Coast’s 2017 campaign had plenty of excitement to it. They were 5-6 after 11 matches and had finals in their sights with impressive early wins against Hawthorn (twice), Carlton, Geelong and West Coast, but their inconsistency from that point forward was the biggest story.
There were silver-linings, with Adam Saad once again topping the competition with bounces, Jarryd Lyons announcing himself as a quality midfielder and spearhead counterparts Tom Lynch and Peter Wright showing the competition what a one-two punch they could be to the rest of the league with more service.
Unfortunately for the Suns, the public noise regarding Gary Ablett’s future was a burden on the club, as they had an eight-week losing streak to finish another season at the foot-end of the ladder.
FB: Kade Kolodjashnij – Steven May – Michael Rischitelli
HB: Pearce Hanley – Rory Thompson – Jarrod Harbrow
C: Touk Miller – Jarryd Lyons – Aaron Hall
HF: Jack Martin – Peter Wright – Aaron Young
FF: Ben Ainsworth – Tom Lynch – Sam Day
R: Jarrod Witts – David Swallow – Lachie Weller
INT: Jesse Joyce – Will Brodie – Brayden Fiorini – Jack Bowes
EMG: Michael Barlow – Alex Sexton – Matt Rosa – Jack Leslie
Best 22 Analysis
Gold Coast Suns Football Operations GM Jon Haines said both Sean Lemmens and Callum Ah Chee will be available in the “early parts of the season”, meaning they have been left out of the above best 22.
Will Brodie, Brayden Fiorini, Jack Bowes and Ben Ainsworth, along with a handful of other youngsters as the year progresses, should all feel safe in Gold Coast’s best 22 if Stuart Dew is to execute a rebuild. Blooding the youth should be at the top of Dew’s to-do list, but at the same time needs to find that balance to remain competitive.
New recruits Lachie Weller (Fremantle) and Aaron Young (Port Adelaide) will have instant roles to play through the midfield and half-forward, while Sam Day is like a new recruit after his dislocated hip last season. His versatility will be vitally important for the Suns in 2018.
The worrying concern for the Suns this season is depth in the middle. With Ablett gone, Aaron Hall is now the only ‘elite’ midfielder according to Champion Data. As has proven to be the case in the past, Gold Coast has squad that looks good on paper but in reality, will disappoint. Their best players are of quite a high standard, but it’s the next level down that causes concerns.
Round 1 vs North Melbourne @ Cazaly’s Stadium
It’s the first test for the Suns in what will be a new-look unfamiliar home ground ‘advantage’, but it potentially comes against the best possible team. North Melbourne are another club likely to struggle throughout 2018 and this is clearly a winnable game. It’s these matches against lesser opposition that need to result in victories for the Suns to avoid the wooden spoon in Stuart Dew’s first season.
Round 3 vs Fremantle @Optus Stadium
Similar to the North Melbourne game, this match is winnable and the Suns will want to get off to a bright start. The first three matches are all potential victories, which would get Gold Coast off to a brilliant start.
Round 11 vs Geelong @Metricon Stadium
This Round 11 clash will be Gold Coast’s first at Metricon Stadium, with the Commonwealth Games forcing their earlier home games to be played at the Gabba, Optus Stadium and Cazaly’s Stadium. It also comes after their unique Round 10 bye. The Suns will be hoping for a decent turnout here, and Geelong may be the perfect opponent. Gold Coast beat them here last season and dominated the Cats in the JLT Series.
Breakout Player – Will Brodie
Will Brodie was one of the clear standouts this pre-season and is likely to feature heavily in a young Gold Coast midfield. He was recruited in 2016 as a tough inside midfielder and fast-tracking his development is essential.
The 19-year-old made his debut against Melbourne last year in Sir Douglas Nicholls Indigenous Round, but it was his Round 23 outing against the Power that had people talking. The shining light on an otherwise miserable day, Brodie collected 23 disposals, laid six tackles and was involved in three of his side’s five scoring shots for the game.
Champion Data rated Brodie above average for disposals, contested possessions, clearances and score involvements in the 2017 NEAFL season. He is primed to make his mark in 2018. Also keep an eye out on 20-year-old midfielder Brayden Fiorini.
Fantasy Gold – Aaron Hall
Aaron Hall thrives when he has space to use on a wing – the position he is likely to hold down in 2018. Hall averaged 25.6 disposals in 2018 and led the Suns for total Fantasy Points (averaging 98.2).
The 27-year-old topped the field in JLT1 with 17 touches, three marks, six tackles, two goals and 91 fantasy points against the Cats. He also managed 106 points from his 24-disposal display in week two.
Adding to his tackle count and hitting the scoreboard more often in 2018 could drastically aid Hall’s fantasy potential.
Ladder Prediction – 18th
There is plenty of potential in this Gold Coast squad, however there are too many question marks to deal with. The Suns have the youngest squad in the league (17 players under the age of 21) and are 16th when it comes to match experience. Adding in the fact the team conceded the second-most points last season, there’s a new coach and Gary Ablett has left the club, it looks dire for the Suns.
Follow Jarryd on Twitter @j96barca