The second most disappointing team in the Northern reaches of the country will this year approach 2017 with a new lease on life. Through an aggressive trade period which saw them collect four of the top 10 national draft picks and other valuable assets despite the loss of O'Meara and Prestia, the Suns finally have something to smile about. But the good news doesn't stop there with the Suns being as injury free since their incarnation in 2011 with only Sam Day (season) and Michael Rischitelli (indefinite) the only players suffering real setbacks. Although they will most likely not make a tilt at the flag, the Suns will be an under-valued surprise packet in 2017. Their list is good without being great and could definitely startle a few of the mid-tier teams as they did to St Kilda last year in round 15.
So, without a further or do, let's see how the boys of the beach land will look to line up in 2017.
B: Adam Saad, Rory Thompson, Jarrod Harbrow
Premierships are won on defence, and the Suns were well off the mark in 2016. They ranked 16th in opponent points last season and could not remain healthy enough to create any form of congruity. Saad (10 games) and Thompson (14 games) struggled to stay on the park for long periods of time which created quite a surplus of other young and inexperienced players to try and fill the void, obviously to no prevail.
However, 2017 may indeed be different. Rory Thompson is a severely underrated defender who is quite effective in the one on one contests. He has a knack for getting the ball to the ground and is quite irritable in the way that he enjoys the contest and grind of stopping an elite forward without necessarily receiving the external recognition from media.
Saad and Harbrow are brilliant line breakers who can create counter attack opportunities through their leg speed and Harbrow's kicking ability. Although this produces a more dangerous Suns backline, they don't really tend to have a small forward stopper or lockdown position player such as a Nick Smith from Sydney. This leaves the Suns vulnerable and susceptible to periods of play when they are forced to defend quick entries into the forward fifty, more so than other teams. Trent McKenzie will force both Harbrow and Saad to perform early as his kicking ability of 70+ metres may be an asset that Rodney Eade looks to utilise as the season continues.
HB: Jack Martin, Steven May (C), Kade Kolodjashnij
This line of defence is so very much similar to the previous. The principle is the same of having a big underrated key position back-man accompanied by a speedster and booming boot. By the looks of it, we can suggest that the Gold Coast Suns will not be playing in a whole bunch of low scoring games this season with their best defence being their greatest offensive capacity.
Steven May should tighten up on his on-field actions after his five-week suspension for that killer collision on Stefan Martin at the Q clash last season. The Suns cannot afford to be missing players that are healthy due to simple ‘brain fades' or ‘misjudgements'. With injuries over the last two seasons in abundance, any other reason not to be playing is simply not good enough. The joint captaincy will make him reassess such patterns and hopefully create a better player.
Jack Martin and Kolodjashnij are both potential stars of the future but underperformed last season. They will benefit from the likes of Swallow and Hanley coming back to play half-back type roles and alleviating the pressure they faced so constantly from opposition sides in 2016.
C: Pearce Hanley, Aaron Hall, David Swallow
This is where things truly do start to get interesting for the Gold Coast Suns. The acquisition of Hanley and return of Swallow should see the Suns become more multi-dimensional, in that it won't just be a run and gun style of play. As mentioned earlier both Hanley and Swallow will have stints patrolling over that half-back region of the field in an attempt to allow players such as a Jack Martin the ability to get free and impact the contest. This will cause a much better flow to the Sun's game plan and ball movement which at times lacked sophistication in that they were not always willing to be patient enough to develop a play but instead force it.
Aaron Hall speaks for himself with an incredible running capacity and ferocious tackling pressure that we are now accustomed to seeing. His challenge will be to constantly deliver it as a falling out with Eade saw him playing in the reserves at one stage last year. If his contested ball and disposal efficiency could rise from his 2016 averages of 8.4 and 70.6% respectively, then there is no reason to suggest why Hall cannot become elite.
HF: Jarryd Lyons, Tom Lynch (C), Gary Ablett
This is arguably the most exciting line of all in the Gold Coast Suns line-up. Tom Lynch who is the joint captain with Steven May is the best true key position forward within the competition. His total of 66 goals a game at three goals per game average is truly sensational considering the ball usage up that end of the ground was much lower to that of a Josh Kennedy from the Eagles. Lynch will be looking to continue developing into the premier key forward of the competition with what should be hopefully a more healthy and reliable team to feed him the ball.
As for Jarryd Lyons, his move from Adelaide should see him playing more midfield minutes although a high half-forward role will be more suited in regards to the team dynamic. His input into the Gold Coast Suns forward line through pressure and tackles within the forward 50 will see him as a very effective player that will add a goal a game on average when the season is all said and done.
Then there's a little magician by the name of Gary Ablett. Injury has plagued the bald-headed wonder for almost two years now, as a recurring shoulder injury has left the Suns without their spiritual leader. Ablett may never be the same player that he was those two years ago, but his new 2017 role will definitely leave us with some jaw dropping moments. Ablett will be playing a lot of one on one style footy in the forward 50 as he is near impossible to quell let alone stop. He will have plenty of midfield rotation but to ensure his body holds up Ablett must be kept forward. If the preseason was anything to go by Ablett could be in store for somewhere near a 50-goal season as his goal sense is as good as any small forward in the competition today.
F: Jarred Grant, Peter Wright, Callum Ah Chee
The front three of the Suns will be interesting in 2017. Peter Wright or ‘2 meters Peter' as most refer to him is a perfect pairing for a player such as Lynch. He's huge, hardly gets beaten in the air and is a dead-eye sharpshooter when put in front of the big sticks. Wright alongside Lynch may be talked about as the best and most intimating key forward duo in the 2017 season.
Jarrod Grant gets a spot purely in the absence of Sam Day. His troubles and lanky body are well known throughout AFL discussion groups and that haircut of his is damn awful. Despite is physical flaws Grant is a handy footballer who can play small but mark like a big. In the JLT series, he was a matchup nightmare and can continue such into the real stuff. Plus, we all know rocket has a soft spot for him. Callum Ah Chee's year will all be about development and impact through forward line pressure and goal savviness. He will at some stage be feeling the pressure to hold his spot the more seasoned Matera hot on his heels to break back into the senior line-up.
R: Jarrod Witts, Michael Barlow, Touk Miller
Jarrod Witts has firmly taken away the number one ruck position from Tom Nicholls after the departure of Zac Smith at the end of the 2015 season. Witts has successfully transitioned from a backup ruck at Collingwood to a senior starter at the Gold Coast. As long he makes a steady improvement in his around the ground activities and continues his strong tap work there will be plenty of opportunities for him to lock down that position, not just for this season but for yours to come.
As for the followers, Barlow has got a second chance after his termination from Fremantle where he was considered too slow. He's already a part of the Gold Coast leadership group and fills a void left in the midfield by the departure of O'Meara and Prestia.
Touk Miller finished the 2016 season superbly and is too a part of the leadership Group in 2017. Much like Aaron Hall in his endeavour, Miller has a massive engine and will come at the opposition all game long through pressure acts. At times his disposal efficiency is sloppy and will need to find alternate ways to impact the game when he rests forward and either Lyons or Ablett go into the midfield.
INT: Michael Rischitelli, Brayden Fiorini, Alex Sexton, Matt Rosa
The Suns interchange in 2017 will predominantly be used as midfielders or high half-forward roles. Players such as Fiorini and Sexton are more than capable as during 2016 they were forced to take on big midfield minutes in the absence of other players. In the final bend of their careers, both Rosa and Rischitelli will be asked to provide some cool, calm and collective whilst mentoring the younger players in helping to establish their game and playing styles. They'll face a lot of pressure to hold their spots as youngsters like Ainsworth, Scrimshaw, Bowes and Brodie push to break into the senior line-up.