Gold Coast Suns 2012 Season Preview

INS: Jackson Allen (zone selection), Aaron Hall (pre-season draft), Alik Magin (rookie elevation), Henry Schade (national draft), Alex Sexton (zone selection), Matthew Warnock (Melbourne Demons).

OUTS: Nathan Ablett (delisted), Michael Coad (delisted, redrafted as a rookie), Joseph Daye (delisted), Daniel Harris (retired), Marc Lock (delisted), Jack Stanlake (delisted).

YEAR IN REVIEW: The Suns dropped their first three matches by a combined 47 goals before breaking the ice with a memorable triumph over Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium. Wins were few and far between but the development of the youngsters and the quality of Gary Ablett, Nathan Bock, Michael Rischitelli and Jared Brennan were obvious. Ablett won the club’s best and fairest, as well as selection in the All Australian team.

GAME BREAKER: Gary Ablett easily gets the nod as the Gold Coast game breaker. The skipper averaged 30 disposals per game, enhancing his reputation since departing Geelong where he was a two-time premiership player and Brownlow Medallist. His leadership and guidance for his young charges as captain was also at a high standard. The complete package.

RISING STAR: There’s a reason Essendon, and a few other Melbourne-based clubs, were desperate to lure Josh Caddy back to Victoria. The kid has alot of talent. Groin surgery and a foot complaint all but wiped out his first season but the tough midfielder managed two matches at the back end of 2011. Sixteen touches and two goals against Hawthorn gave us a glimpse of his undoubted talent. An injury-free year could win him the NAB Rising Star.

KEY ARRIVAL: You’ll have to be patient but Jaeger O’Meara will be worth the wait. The Suns aren’t going to be contesting finals in 2012 so the focus remains on the future. That’s where O’Meara, recruited in the mini draft for 17-year-olds, comes into play. He’s too young to play in the AFL this year but the AFL granted permission for him to play in the NAB Cup. It was promising to say the least. O’Meara cost the Suns pick No.4 in last year’s national draft and will spend 2012 playing reserves footy for the Suns in the NEAFL.

COACH FACTOR: Guy McKenna fumbled his way through the opening rounds of life as an AFL senior coach before settling into the role and earning a pass mark from most observers. Expectations from outside and inside the club will be greater in 2012. His one-on-one game style was lauded last season as he preferred to let his players learn and not limit the damage on the scoreboard.

STATS THAT MATTER: Only two Gold Coast players managed to play every match in their inaugural season in the AFL. One was former Dog Jarrod Harbrow and the second was underrated in ex-Pie Danny Stanley. The Suns handed AFL debuts to 34 players in 2011.

THE VERDICT: 17th. Expect an even tougher year than their inaugural one for the Suns. They are no longer the new boys in town and will be treated accordingly, with an increase in expectations across the board. Three wins was a great result last year and should improve but finding five or six will be difficult. Coach McKenna will keep continue to build this team and the focus on development will be imminent in year two. Nothing comes easy in this game and they’ll have to dig deeper to excel in 2012.

BEST 22

B: Hunt Warnock Harbrow

HB: Wilkinson May McKenzie

C: Weller Rischitelli Bennell

HF: Stanley Lynch Brennan

F: Matera Bock Brown

Foll: Fraser Ablett Swallow

I/C: Smith, Caddy, Prestia

SUB: Iles

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