Sometimes I sit back and watch the goings-on in the AFL and I cannot help but shake my head. Yeah, yeah… Hawthorn this, Essendon that, but no club has me whipping my head left and right with the regularity of the Gold Coast Suns.
At the moment, I am stunned that there is not more heat on the club, given the idiotic – yep, idiotic position they find themselves in heading into the 2022 AFL Draft.
If you’ve followed along, you know the story, but on the off-chance you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell.
The Suns gave Jack Bowes a deal that ends in 2024, having restructured his salary on a couple of occasions to make room to pay others. Bowes has accepted their terms in good faith and agreed to take more later, making his deal extremely back-ended as a result..
Only… he won’t get that mone- not with the Suns, anyway. Bowes is owed in the vicinity of $1.5 to 1.6 million over the next two seasons and the Suns, through their own ineptitude, find themselves once again squeezed for salary cap room.
They cannot afford to keep him, but with approximately $800K per year owing, it would have been a huge deterrent for any club to take him on had he been put up for trade all alone. So, what do they do?
They take pick seven in the AFL Draft and dangle it out there as bait.
Pick Seven. The “reward” a team gets for finishing in the highly-touted 12th position on the ladder. You know, for being crap.
Whilst other teams fight and squabble for a draft pick in the teens to balance out the loss of a player, Gold Coast has somehow managed paint themselves into a position where they just give one away worth a hell of a lot more than the one they were just gifted 12 months earlier.
How can this happen?
How can a team that has experienced so much pain over their AFL tenure continue to abuse themselves like this and lose not only a quality young player, but have to throw the number seven draft pick into the mix to get people to take him?
Bowes is a Queensland boy. He came through their academy and was quoted when he signed his contract extension as saying “I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.”
Pity the Suns and Stuart Dew didn’t share that view. Once it became apparent they’d screwed up, they could see him paying anywhere else but at the Suns.
Now, before I get whacked for sinking the boots into Gold Coast, let me just rehash a couple of things.
- This was the team that was granted a priority draft pick following the 2021 season. After another season of mediocrity, they not only failed to make finals, but then went on to somehow paint themselves into a corner and are now forced to offer up a pick 12 spots better than the one they were gifted last season.
- They could not find a spot in the midfield for Will Brodie, who trekked over to Fremantle, who must be laughing their arses off at the way they’ve handled Gold Coast in negotiations over the last few years. He became one of the better inside mids in the game.
- They were trying to convince Izak Rankine to stay and re-sign with the team. Ummm… question – where the hell was that money going to come from if you didn’t get him to commit and you’re STILL having to offload Bowes’ contract? Who else would you have jettisoned?
- They signed Rory Atkins to a five-year deal despite him being unable to get a regular game in an undermanned Adelaide team in 2020. He has continued to struggle at Gold Coast, ostensibly on a very expensive semi-working holiday, playing nine games this season after eight in 2021.
- They re-signed Stuart Dew during the season and then watched on as the Suns fell away and out of finals contention for the… well, for as long as they’ve ever been in contention to play finals, which is not many times. There was no pressure to re-sign Dew. Nobody was kicking his door down to poach him. They just did it because it seemed like a good idea. They finished 4-6 over the last ten games.
In short, again I use the word “idiotic” to describe the Suns and the way they have maneuvered themselves into this situation.
Something has gone on with Jack Bowes at the Gold Coast and we are not yet hearing about it. He went from playing every game in 2020 to playing 19 in 2021, and this season he played just five games, used as a depth player and running around in the seconds more often than not. I can remember watching Gold Coast games when most others wouldn’t even have bothered – you like to know who the players coming through are and how good they can be.
In 2019, there were times when it seemed as though whenever the Suns looked promising, it somehow involved Bowes. Whether he was standing up in defence or running from half-back and through the middle, he was a footballer and you could tell he knew how to play.
So, Stuart Dew, what’s the deal?
Why did he fall out of favour?
Why has he been unable to break back into a side that isn’t exactly the strongest unit in the game? With injuries to Charlie Ballard, Connor Budarick, Will Powell, and Lachie Weller all sidelined, Bowes could manage just five games? Nup, there has to be more to it.
There is something about how Gold Coast players fall out of the rotation and fail to work their way back. Brayden Fiorini went from being the Suns’ number one ball-winner in 2019 to playing just five games in 2020. He has been superfluous to needs, apparently.
Apply that to Will Brodie, as well, who managed just six games in two years with Gold Coast over 2020/21 and then went on to play 24 this year.
Or how about Peter Wright, who couldn’t even get a damn game for the club in 2020 but has played 43 for the Bombers in the next two seasons, kicked 82 goals, and won the Best and Fairest at his new club.
Oh yes, something is definitely not right at Gold Coast, and the success former Suns are having elsewhere points directly to it – Jarryd Lyons, anyone?
The failure of Collingwood to work within the constraints of their salary cap was bad – it cost them Adam Treloar and Jaidyn Stephenson (the latter of which was probably very lucky) but at no stage were they forced to offload a top-ten pick to move a player on. That the Suns have worked themselves into this situation must be both embarrassing and infuriating for fans.
Sure, people could argue that they’ve already compiled a list of young talent and they don’t need any more. Yeah, argue that – it is a dumb argument, particularly when you’re not getting anything back for the pick you’re giving away but another, drastically worse draft pick. That argument makes no sense, does it? Others may argue the move is a good one, offloading salary on a back-ended deal is wise, right? Those people will conveniently forget the adjustments made by Bowes and the Suns to accomodate others. They’ll forget to mention that his deal became MORE back-ended as the Suns continued to write cheques their salary cap could not cash.
Stuart Dew and their list manager, Craig Cameron have royally screwed up this list and if no success comes in 2023, they should be held accountable. Over the journey, we here at The Mongrel Punt have been one of the few outlets not to jump on the “close the place down” or “relocate them” bandwagons – theyre rubbish stories – however, if we’re sitting back after the 2023 AFL season lamenting how the Suns could have/should have/would have made finals if not for something or other, I am sorry, but enough is enough.
The clock is ticking on this club and their football department.
And time runs out after the 2023 season.