The Gold Coast Suns were another surprise of the 2020 season, vying for the spotlight with the Saints as the best expansion side. With as many promising new players as they have veterans, the team promises hope for the Queensland club next year.
2019 finish: -
2020 finish: 4th (Conference A)
In a Nutshell
Not much was expected of Gold Coast in its inaugural season. A club whose male team had failed to both make finals and establish any real fanbase in a decade and whose female list was made up of the players that equalisation allowed was destined to struggle.
Somehow, Gold Coast defied the odds and stand with St Kilda as the most successful expansion side of 2020. The Suns dared to play a high-speed, high-risk run-and-carry game. When the game plan came off, it was not only thoroughly good to watch but gave the Suns the teeth to shake even the best of teams.
David Lake’s side showed no signs of nerves or hesitancy in its maiden season. By Round 3, Gold Coast had claimed its first win on its home deck over a wasteful Richmond as well as a Q-Clash draw with Brisbane and a one-point loss to GWS in biblical rain at Blacktown. A narrow loss to North Melbourne was followed by the only real stumble as the Suns were upset at home by Geelong before triumphing over West Coast to finish the home-and-away season.
A surprise promotion into the restructured finals series gave Gold Coast the distinction of the club’s first appearance in finals but precious little else as the Suns were steamrolled by a Fremantle side that looked every bit the premiership contender.
Most encouragingly for Gold Coast, the established AFLW talent was not over-relied upon. Indeed, come season’s end the talk is less about Jamie Stanton, Leah Kaslar and Tiarna Ernst – all of whom had fine seasons – than 20-year old Kalinda Howarth (one of the most electric forwards in the game who at her best turned matches singlehandedly), 19-year old ruck Lauren Bella (first in the league for hit-outs), defenders Lauren Ahrens and Jade Pregelj (who received three AFLW Media Team of the Week nominations) and Kate Surman.
The equally unexpected successes of Brisbane could make Queensland a stronghold and destination state for AFLW. Interstate players like Brittany Perry, Jasmyn Hewett (South Australia), Jordann Hickey (Northern Territory) and Hannah Dunn (NSW) were foot soldiers in Gold Coast’s first’s season and both the Suns and the Lions can expect more players to try their luck and nominate up north in seasons to come.
After four seasons in which GWS has attracted more interstate players than any other club, could the Suns steal that ace in 2021?