2011 was an encouraging first year for the young Suns, one that yielded 3 wins and a lot of improvement from its rookies. Given the baptism of fire they faced; along with the faster than usual development expected from their young brigade – the Gold Coast camp will be buzzing with anticipation ahead of its 2nd year and what it will bring. With the recruitment of additional big bodies in ex-Melbourne defender Matthew Warnock, plus rookie recruits Andrew McQualter (Saints) and Kyal Horsley (Subiaco) the Suns will aim to give their young guns more room to flourish and improve with these older bodies taking (and perhaps inflicting) the damage in the new season.
Give the large make up of 2nd year players and the reliance on a few older heads; many predict that the suns won’t be very DT relevant in 2012. However I disagree, and aim to try and persuade you that there is a lot of value to be found in this young Gold Coast team. Below is a look at a possible best 22 for the upcoming year, however as it is still several months out from round 1 and with most of the preseason to play out, this may well change a hundred times between now and then.
B: Brown, Bock, Hunt
HB: Harbrow, Coad, Warnock
C: McKenzie, Rischitelli, Iles
HF: Stanley, Dixon, Brennan
F: Matera, Day, Bennell
Foll: Smith, Ablett, Swallow
Int: Lynch, Prestia, Caddy
Fringe Players – McQualter, Fraser, Gorringe, Horsley, Tape, Toy, Schade, Russell, Flanagan, Shaw, Gilbee, Hutchins, Magin, Day, Hall
2012 Draw & Byes
The Suns have a fairly generous draw this year, only having to play one of the top 8 teams from 2011 multiple times (St Kilda). The AFL has given them every chance to increase their total wins in 2012; scheduling them to play GWS, North, Brisbane and Adelaide twice. This should give them a good chance of improving steadily and avoiding the wooden spoon for a consecutive year. Encouragingly, they play at Metricon Stadium on ten occasions plus 2 short trips up to the Gabba to face the Lions. Whether its favourable or not, they will only have to travel interstate ten times in 2012.
Gold Coast share the bye with a few big guns this year including Hawthorn, Carlton and St Kilda (plus Richmond and Port). The only relevance this has is in the midfield where many coaches will be loading up on Gary Ablett, Carlton’s Marc Murphy, as well as the possibility of several Hawthorn and St Kilda guns. We will have to be wary of this when choosing our midfield guns to start with. After the round 13 bye, look for many teams to feature a few upgrades from these teams.
Nathan Bock – DEF – $396,900 – 2011 average – 80.2 (21 games)
Recruited from Adelaide for the 2011 season to anchor the Suns defence, Bock did just that – playing all but one game and maintaining a healthy average amongst several inconsistent young first years. He flourished in the second half of the year, averaging 88.6 points in his last 12 games. Unfortunately for him, he has to sit out the first two games of 2012 for telling a mate he’d be starting in the forward line against the Hawks in round 24. This could be a blessing for him, as it will allow him to be a bit fresher for the start of the season with that 2 week break.
Verdict: If he comes out in round 3 and shows the same form as at the end of 2011, he should be strongly considered as an upgrade target. But due to his suspension, and his sharing the bye with Deledio and Goddard – you should only consider him after round 13.
Predicted average for 2012: 90
Jarrod Harbrow – DEF – $363,800 – 2011 average – 73.5 (22 games)
Durable and potential to burn, Harbrow didn’t hit the heights of his 2010 season last year. However as with most of the Suns recruits, they should improve in their second year after a full year together and another preseason under their belt. He has been described as inconsistent at times, which results in frustrated DT coaches. But when he gets going, he can really rack up the possessions of the half back flank. Turning 24 in 2012, the Suns will be hoping Harbrow can add more consistency to his game. If he can do that, he would be a valuable asset for your backline.
Verdict: If he looks to be gaining more consistency, jump on as an upgrade in the second half of the year.
Predicted average for 2012: 85
Gary Ablett Jnr – MID – $554,700 – 2011 average – 112.2 (20 Games)
Perhaps the biggest lock of 2012 aside from Mr. DT God himself, Dane Swan – Gablett is one of the biggest DT sluts we’ll ever see. Thought by many to struggle in 2011 at a new team without the protection of his mates at the Cattery, the Little Master carved up teams at times in 2011 and showed us all that he can do it all by himself, with or without a good team behind him. He was unstoppable in some games last year, typified by his 175 point demolition against Fremantle in round 15. He provides excellent value this year with a reduced average courtesy of some minor injuries and ‘that game’ against Sydney where he was subbed out in the first quarter after amassing a quick-fire 23 points. Safe to say he brought the ire of many coaches that week.
Verdict: With a bigger, more improved Suns outfit behind him in 2012, expect Gary to dominate in DT once again. I’ll say it slowly… L.O.C.K.
Predicted average for 2012: 125
Michael Rischitelli – MID – $473,200 – 2011 average – 95.7 (21 games)
‘Mr. Consistent’ had a great year in 2011 steadying the ship in the stoppages for the Suns and helping himself to some nice scores along the way. Ever since his breakout B & F year at the Lions in 2010, he has been one of the most dependable midfielders in DT. With an extremely low standard deviation and as durable as they come, Rischi is a unique premium who again, provides value with his price compared to some others in this bracket. I believe he will again improve in 2012 and is in the middle of his prime as a footballer, he could give you the edge as a 3rd or 4th midfielder, or alternatively an upgrade target for mid year.
Verdict: Look for another consistent year from this guy as he looks to break the 100 average for the first time in his career. Consider as a point of difference.
Predicted average for 2012: 100
Zac Smith – RUC – $355,400 – 2011 average – 71.8 (20 Games)
After starting the year on every serious DTers bench in 2011, big Zac did not disappoint, particularly in the first half of the year where he averaged 80.3 points in his first 10 games, which included 3 scores over 100. As did most of the other first year Suns, Smith tapered off in the latter half of the year with the pace and physicality of the AFL taking its toll. With a full preseason under his belt, he could well prove to be an exception to the ruck rule. Where it usually takes at least 4 years for a ruckman to develop, he could breakout into that healthy 90+ range in just his second year.
Verdict: If you are looking for a durable mid price ruckman for your 2nd spot on the field, Smith should be better equipped to see out this year and improve to serviceable average for coaches that are willing to pick him.
Predicted average for 2012: 85
Danny Stanley – FWD – $392,800 – 2011 average – 79.4 (22 Games)
In my opinion he was the 2nd best player at the Suns behind Ablett in 2011, as well as the 2nd best rookie option behind Heppell, Stanley was invaluable in the latter half of the year for his coaches who kept him, routinely racking up 90+ and hitting the ton a few times as well. After drawing extreme criticism (rightly so) at the beginning of the year for his questionable disposal and his average scores, Stanley kicked into gear: dropping under 80 points only 3 times. As he is more mature than the other Suns players, he should have the durability and endurance to see out the season better (as evidenced by his 2011). Listed as a forward in 2012 due to kicking 20 goals last year, he will be invaluable to the Suns and would be a low risk mid price option. Averaging 85.6 points from his last 13 games, he presents good value for 2012.
Verdict: With the emergence of many DPP players in 2012 for slightly more, there are better options out there. However if you’re looking for a cheaper option for your 4th/5th forward, Stanley could be your man.
Predicted average for 2012: 90
2nd Year Breakouts?
With the faster development and exposure to AFL action, this leaves us with the very real possibility that we may see several 2011 rookies have breakout years. Whilst traditionally we have to wait til a players 3rd year to see rapid improvement, I believe we will see this from several Suns in 2012 – one year ahead of schedule. With the exception of Zac Smith (as noted above), here are my picks of the 2nd year Breakout Bunch.
David Swallow – MID –$377,300 – 2011 average – 76.3 (21 Games)
The 2011 No. 1 draft pick had a great first year, showing that he was ready for AFL action from the get go. Playing in almost every game and earning a rising star nomination in Round 14, he is a star of the future with his ball winning ability, composure and capable of handling the pressure of the big stage. Swallow cracked the DT ton 4 times in 2011, with that number sure to increase in next year. With a healthy average of 76 in his first year, combined with his standing well and truly inside the club’s best 21 (meaning no vests); watch for him to have a mini-breakout in 2012 and step up his average by a healthy amount.
Verdict: This guy will be a gun, anyone who says otherwise is dreaming. Whether he warrants selection in your starting team is another story. Good mid price option, but there is better value and surer bets out there.
Predicted average for 2012: 85
Trent McKenzie – MID – $363,700 – 2011 average – 73.5 (21 games)
Gold Coast’s own ‘Cannon’ made a name for himself in 2011 for his thumping left boot that has to be regarded as one of (if not the) biggest kick in the competition. After kicking a 65 metre goal off one step against Adelaide in round 8, he has become a fan favourite at the Suns and a great DT scorer in his first year. Similar to Smith and Swallow, his scoring waned in the latter half of the year. But with a full preseason, he should come out in 2012 and improve considerably. Whilst all of the attention will be on Ablett and Swallow, McKenzie will continue to rack up the touches on the wing all day. I’m expecting big things from this guy – whether it is enough to get a spot in your team is up to you.
Verdict: Not only does he have a massive kick, he knows how to find the ball in a losing team, gathering 20+ touches on 7 occasions. If you have the mettle, he won’t disappoint you – but don’t expect a breakout quite like Rockliff last year.
Predicted average for 2012: 84
Dion Prestia – MID – $313,700 – 2011 average – 63.4 (17 games)
After having an up and down first year, Prestia is firing in the off season and impressing everyone at the club with his fitness. He has shown that he can rack up the possessions, but not yet consistently. Also, given he has lost his DPP status and is now only listed as a midfielder this year, means he will be fighting for a spot in your team against many other mid price players set for a breakout – ones that may be slightly more assured ala Rory Sloane or Jack Trengove.
Verdict: Prestia will be a great player for the Gold Coast, but there are other players at his price that offer more value.
Predicted average for 2012: 72
Henry Schade – DEF – $98,700
The Suns sole acquisition in the 2011 draft; Schade is a tall, fearless defender from Tasmania who has been touted to take over from Nathan Bock down back as the ‘anchor’ in their defence. Being the only pick in the draft, he is highly rated at the Gold Coast and must be sure to get a few games at some stage in 2012. Coach McKenna has clearly stated that he ‘won’t be giving out anymore free games’ so Schade will have to work for his. Given the fact there is still likely to be a lot of ball in their backline again this year, if he gets a run then he’s a fair chance to score some decent points.
Verdict: If he isn’t named round 1, look for him as a downgrade target mid year for one of the more popular rookies in defence like Morris, Docherty and Wilkes.
Predicted average for 2012: 60
Piers Flanagan – MID – $104,200
One of the unluckier players in Gold Coast’s list, Piers spent 2011 watching his mates make their AFL debuts while he cheered them on from the stands. Marred by injuries in his first year, the talented and athletic half back flanker will be looking to put it all behind him and break into the team in 2012. He is now 19 and lucky for us he’s still rookie priced so is nice and cheap.
Verdict: I don’t see him getting a game first up unless he smashes it in the NAB cup. But his determination should help him get a few games to get his career started. Look at as a downgrade target when he debuts.
Predicted average for 2012: 65
Kyal Horsley – MID – $119,800
After watching some footage of this guy, I’ve decided that I love the way he plays. He finds the ball with ease and knows how to hit a target. Playing predominantly as an in and under midfielder, he could provide good relief for Swallow and co. when they get tired. Averaging 24 disposals in the WAFL and coming runner up in the Sandover Medal (the one Andrew Krakoer won the year before being drafted by Collingwood), he is a gun and could be the Michael Barlow of 2012. The only problem is that he is currently rookie listed. If he is elevated before round 1 and can move up the pecking order and make the best 22, he’s a lock on my midfield bench.
Verdict: If he is named to play from round 1, he’ll be in my team no questions asked. If not, look for as a sure-fire downgrade mid year.
Predicted average for 2012: 70
Stay away from
Karmichael Hunt – DEF – $145,600 – 2011 average – 29.4 (16 games)
The NRL convert spent 2011 in and out of the first team; with fatigue, injury and mental exhaustion restricting him to 16 games. Whilst he should be commended for his commitment and courage both on and off the field, he will never be a DT star (or anything close for that matter). A combination of the role McKenna has assigned him to, as well as his still improving AFL skills and knowledge – means he is not a viable option for your team. Not now, probably never.
Jaeger O’Meara – MID – $107,200
In case you have been hiding under a rock, or maybe you just didn’t know – don’t pick O’Meara in 2012 as he is not eligible to play. He will make his highly anticipated debut in 2013 in what should be an already established midfield. He has been told to spend 2012 in the gym, whilst playing for the reserves. He should be a lock in your midfield in 2013.
Others to consider
Matthew Warnock – The 27 year defender from Melbourne should provide good depth for the Suns in their second season. He was behind Frawley, Grimes and co. at the Dees, but should see more ball in the back half at the Suns this year. At $256k he could be a steal.
Daniel Gorringe – Pick number ten in 2010’s draft, Gorringe didn’t see much action last year resulting in a low average of 33 from his 7 games. As Fraser’s body caves in, the highly rated ruckman should see more games in the centre of the field to relieve Zac Smith to aid his improvement. If he doesn’t start the year, look at him as a downgrade for Stephenson or Giles mid year.
Michael Coad – This guy was considered rookie gold this time last year after being picked up by the Suns as a mature body. One of the unluckiest guys currently on an AFL list, Gold Coast gave Coad another chance by rookie listing him for the new year. If he’s promoted to the main list and is fit, he presents good value at $244k given he’s capable of averaging 75+.
Josh Caddy – Similar to Coad, Caddy only managed 2 games in 2011 after injuries made it difficult for him to get a game. Highly rated on the Gold Coast, Caddy is tearing it up in the preseason and looks like a man on a mission. Unfortunately he is priced at $249k based on his encouraging first two games. He will be a star in the future – he’s even been touted as a target of other clubs for 2012. But I’ll be holding fire on this guy until he gets a few more games.