Tuesday 20 February 2018 / 10:57 AM

2014 Season Preview: Gold Coast Suns

Okay, I admit it. I’ve never been a fan of the Suns.

In fact, since the AFL’s two newest expansion teams came in to the league, I’ve been quietly hoping they’ll be monumental failures, and we can go back to our nice little sixteen team competition that was working just fine.

Or better still, Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney fail, PLUS the AFL decides that while they’re at it, they may as well kill two birds with one stone and get rid of a couple of the Melbourne clubs they’re propping up at the same time.

It was back in 2012, when Gold Coast chairman John Witheriff said that the Suns were aiming for 20,000 members and would win a flag by 2015, that my eyebrows were first raised.

Was I worried that that yet another club chairman had made public an outlandish prediction about the future of their club? Not really. In reality, it was clear that the only reason he made it was to try and generate some interest in a team very few Gold Coast people cared about (and in fact the club’s membership base has actually decreased since its inaugural year in 2011).

What drew my ire was the fact that it could feasibly happen. That an expansion team could actually win it within three years. That the AFL – through giving the new teams every pick in the draft, 600 billion dollars, a slightly-past-it-but-still-legendary Kevin Sheedy, and Gary Ablett thrown in as the steak knives – could actually let this happen.

And all to cater for an AFL chief hell-bent on cementing his legacy as “the greatest CEO ever”.

What made it even worse was that my Fremantle Dockers had been in the competition for 17 years without tasting success, and here was this Demetriou-manufactured team being gifted a flag after five.

But then the 2013 season happened. And now I like them. They’ve converted me. There, I’ve said it. I like the Gold Coast.

For a start, the Dockers made the grand final last year, so I was always going to have reasonably fond memories of 2013. But for me, one of the other highlights of the season was the Gold Coast. They notched up eight wins, one of them being a great win over Collingwood at home, which warmed 95% of hearts around the nation on a cold winter weekend.

But it wasn’t just the number of wins, it was the flair and courage in the way they played that changed my mind. In addition to the obvious one in Brownlow medallist Gary Ablett, there were two Suns players that I loved watching in 2013, and can’t wait to see more of this year: Jaeger O’Meara and Harley Bennell.

O’Meara has the body that most of us had when we 19 … in our dreams. He’s an absolute specimen, and his footballing ability isn’t too bad either. Actually, I can’t remember seeing a first year player look so comfortable playing senior footy, and that includes fellow Rising Star winners such as Ben Cousins and Joel Selwood.

Although he was probably down on the output of his second year, Bennell still showed patches of the silky skills and match-winning ability that are a tantalising glimpse of things to come.

The Suns seem to be overflowing with gun West Australian midfielders, and now they’ve got Jack Martin to add to the collection. At odds of $5 to win the Rising Star, I’ll be putting a lot of money on him and spending the winnings now. I’m that certain he’ll win it.

With the number five pick in the 2013 draft, the club has again had the opportunity to bring in more young talent. I haven’t actually seen him play yet, but I like the sound of their draftee, Kade Kolodjashnij. I wonder if Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and the rest of his family will be at Metricon Stadium to see his first game?

And I can’t preview the Suns without mentioning rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt. Not because of the way he plays footy, but I just love reversing the initials of his first name and surname and saying them under my breath repeatedly. Go on, try it.

So it would be fair to say that I hold high hopes for the Suns in 2014, both in terms of being excited to watch them play and how they’ll go. In fact, I think they’ll make the finals. But if the wheels start to fall off early, expect the pressure to be piled onto coach Guy McKenna, who’s in the last year of his contract.

And as for the chairman’s predictions? Well, they’re not going to make 20,000 members any time soon, sorry. But they could win the flag in 2015, and if they did, I wouldn’t mind.

If – and this is a big if – the Dockers win it this year.

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Gary Ausbruch

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