Don’t let the sun go down on the dew

It’s easy to make fun of the Gold Coast Suns, from their lack of success on and off the pitch, to their crappy team song, to the fact that they were licensed before a Tasmanian team.

And some of these criticisms are correct.

The Suns have definitely underperformed throughout their league run, especially when compared to their expansion counterparts, the Greater Western Sydney Giants.

Some of that could be attributed to the challenges of building a team from scratch in non-AFL territory, especially in a market like the Gold Coast. But some of it is also self-inflicted, as poor roster management and team culture have helped stifle any attempt to take the next step.

Heading into the 2022 season, no coach was under more pressure than Suns head coach Stewie Dew. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, given that Gold Coast had finished 16th in 2021 (only ahead of Collingwood and North Melbourne) and from a distance it’s been a very Gold Coast season: starting strongly, stagnating, then falling apart. fading into virtual anonymity.

So, let’s take a closer look. On paper, seven wins and 15 losses certainly scream mediocrity. Solid wins over Sydney, Collingwood, Hawthorn and reigning premiers Richmond were overshadowed by heavy season-ending defeats to Brisbane, Melbourne and Essendon, as well as the Swans’ recovery in the final round.

Their success that year was down to their work to ensure their opponents couldn’t turn 50 entries into scores. They were able to lead the competition in 50 rebounds and finish second in tackles (behind eventual premierships Melbourne).

Where the Suns fell apart, however, was converting their rebounding game into their own 50 forward starters. They ranked 15th for forward 50 entries and last for scores under 50. Facing those numbers, it’s not hard to see why they often struggled to turn entries into scores. For the record, the Suns currently sit in fifth place in the Inside 50 and sixth in inside-50 ratings.

In Round 9, the Suns are 13th with a 3-5 win-loss ratio. Their biggest defeat came at the hands of fellow banana benders, the Brisbane Lions, by 52 points. And looking at that game, it’s fair to say the final margin didn’t do the Suns justice, as the Lions largely blew them away in the final quarter.

Other than that, they lost to Melbourne by 13 points, Collingwood by 25 and St Kilda and GWS by 26. So, it’s fair to say things could be much worse for the Gold Coast Suns.

Some may scoff, but there’s a lot to love about the Suns in 2022, like the continued development of Matt Rowell, Izak Rankine, Mabior Chol and Jack Lukosius. Combine that with the heart and soul provided by Touk Miller, Jarrod Witts and David Swallow, plus the return of Ben King should provide fans with something to delight.

This all brings us back to Stewie Dew. As previously reported, in 2022 he was widely tipped to be the first coach to receive the film (well, Leon Cameron managed to ridicule us all there). All the talk surrounding Dew was that it was endgame or bust. Now I can understand why everyone was saying that. In 11 seasons in the AFL, the Suns have not tasted September action, their best finish being 12th in 2014.

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

2014 was their last season under inaugural coach Guy McKenna. After making incremental improvements in each previous season, the Suns found themselves in Round 16 as they hosted my beloved Magpies at Metricon Stadium. A close and hard-fought five-point victory came at a huge cost, as skipper Gary Ablett Jr’s season ended prematurely with a shoulder injury.

The Suns lost all but one of their remaining games, resulting in McKenna being fired.

To this day, I still think McKenna was stiff. Yes, they had undoubtedly struggled in the AFL until then, but they had shown enough in 2014 to suggest they were heading in the right direction. McKenna’s sacking paved the way for Rodney Eade to take the reins.

Despite his previous success in transitioning the Sydney Swans and Western Bulldogs from struggling players to runners-up, Eade couldn’t achieve a better result than 15th as the rift between coach and players has paved the way for his dismissal in Round 19 of the 2017 season.

I think the Suns need to keep their cool here. It would be easy to tell Stewie Dew to put away his speed dealer sunglasses and head out into the sunset. But honestly, I don’t think the Suns can afford to repeat the process of finding another coach again.

It’s not exactly like there are better options.

You’re looking at unexplored potential, and they tried to gain experience as well, only for it to end in tears. Despite all the guesswork, I honestly don’t think Alistair Clarkson wants the Suns coaching job, nor do I think he’ll be able to replicate the success he enjoyed at Hawthorn.

History has suggested there is something to be gained by supporting a coach a bit longer if Mark Thompson at Geelong in 2006 and Damien Hardwick at Richmond a decade later is anything to go by.

Is Dew in the same league as Bomber and Dimma? Of course not. But I don’t think they’ll gain anything by moving Dew, especially in the short term. They can’t afford another lost season, but neither can they afford to simply start over.

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