Gold Coast Suns have box office appeal
By Lance Jenkinson
Basketball fans in America call them League Pass teams – a team that might not figure deep into the NBA playoffs but are a must-watch along the way.
Gold Coast Suns are one of the League Pass teams of the AFL – a side that projects to be middle of the road, fighting it out for a top eight spot when the whips are cracking, but a year or two away from the biggest stage of all, that last Saturday in September.
No matter how far the Suns go this season, they are going to be an intriguing watch.
You can see it before your eyes, the maturing of a list that not so long ago were the whipping boys of the competition.
A game plan and team structure that Suns coach Stuart Dew has devised is clearly being bought into.
One of the best aspects of this talented Suns side is its collective selflessness.
There are individuals who probably have to right be a big heads, play up to their lofty draft status coming out of underage football and put flair before team, but there is none of that.
Gold Coast’s 59-point demolition of North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night showed a special team bond, a willingness to bring a teammate into play and a hard-working attitude for one another.
Young and old, the Suns have bought into a team-first mindset and it must make coaching the side much easier for Dew.
Only those inside the walls at Gold Coast can reveal the characters behind the attitudinal shift over the past two seasons, but getting youngsters Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson one and two in the draft sure helped.Embed from Getty Images
Ben Ainsworth is pumped up after kicking a goal for Gold Coast.
Anderson and Rowell not only have elite talent, but they are elite leaders.
Anderson is your unassuming, lead by example type. He carved up the Roos with 35 disposals and nine marks.
Rowell has been limited with injury, but even in his toughest moments with his setbacks, he wears a smile and does not make it all about him.
Ben King, a supremely talented young forward, is another who leads with his actions.
With the game in safe keeping, King took a mark 20 metres out and could have gone back and slotted it home, but instead brought his teammate into play and helped Izak Rankine to a confidence-boosting three-goal game.
King is still fairly slight of body for a key forward and needs to put on weight, but there was a mark he took in the third quarter that resembled a young Alastair Lynch in his prime.
King stuck out the backside in a one-on-one contest on a long ball kicked to the top of the square, created just enough space to move into and took a mark, showing his undoubted forward nous.
With Rowell out for an indefinite period, it has required a number of Suns onballers to have to go up 10-15% from their usual output.
In particular, the hard working Touk Miller, smooth moving Lachie Weller and the aforementioned Anderson.
Miller is beauty, a tough-as-nails operator who scampers away from packs unnoticed. A two-way operator, he does not shirk his defensive responsibilities.Embed from Getty Images
Touk Miller is a tireless worker in the Gold Coast Suns midfield.
Weller is re-paying the faith shown in him by the Suns, offering plenty of drive from the heart of the ground. There were eyebrows raised when the Suns gave up pick two in the 2017 draft to the Fremantle Dockers to secure his services, but it is starting to pay dividends.
Weller was brilliant against North Melbourne with 25 disposals and four tackles. He makes his possessions count with most of them penetrating kicks to advantage.
One player who is must-watch is Jack Lukosius.
Is there a more accurate field kicker than Lukosius in the AFL right now?
You would love to be a Suns forward getting on the end of Lukosius’s kicks. You would not have to break stride on the lead as the ball is kicked with such care and precision.
What has turned Gold Coast from a below average team to a finals aspirant is some shrewd recruiting.
In recent seasons, the additions of Brandon Ellis, Hugh Greenwood, Oleg Markov and Sam Collins through the VFL has given the Suns a much harder edge.
Markov’s game against North Melbourne was a head turner. The former Richmond player did not stop running for the full 120 minutes and reached incredible speeds while doing so. He could prove to be a steal for the Suns, if he can just slightly improve the connection with his kicks.
The big test for Gold Coast now is to sustain this promising start to the season.
In recent seasons, the Suns have fallen away after strong starts, but with an extra preseason in the legs and even more experience on the ground, they should be able to keep it going deep into the 2021 season.
A trip to play a young and hungry Adelaide Crows at a hostile Adelaide Oval on Friday night will provide a good test of the Suns maturity.