The worst case scenario has arrived for the Gold Coast Suns – Tom Lynch has played his last ever game for the club. With his impending departure, the future of the embattled club becomes even more bleak. The pressing issue of survival amplifies with each loss, and with each senior player mooting his departure.

The tiresome script continues for the Suns; boy meets club, boy shows potential, man thrives elsewhere. But will this be the one that tips them over the edge?

“Will he stay or will he go?” – it’s been a question in the background of every season recently. The pronoun is attributed annually to names such as Gary Ablett jr, Travis Cloke, Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, Patrick Dangerfield and Dustin Martin, but never has a decision been more pressing for the future of a football club and the shape of the competition than the decision of the man “with the Gold Coast Suns in his hands”, Tom Lynch.

Despite Lynch being substantially less established than all of the other aforementioned stars, he is still worth far more to the Suns than Ablett (Geelong), Cloke, Franklin, Dangerfield and Martin were to their respective clubs. Now the $10.5 million question has its inevitable answer, the captain is leaving the ship, and he won’t be looking back to see how long it stays afloat without him. The question is no longer “will he stay or will he go” because Tom Lynch is already gone. His mind and energy are already located at either the Holden Centre or Punt Road. He is located on the Gold Coast in body alone, but the captain does not deserve to go quietly out the door without scrutiny.

The Herald Sun has revealed that the Gold Coast Suns are resigned to the fact that – after exhausting all efforts to persuade him otherwise – that Lynch will depart that club at season’s end, with Collingwood and Richmond reportedly the clear frontrunners. With knee surgery ruling the All Australian key forward out of action for the reminder of the season, his time at the Suns is over and his time in the footballing sun begins.

Besides a few shots in a club polo, captured in the Gold Coast coach’s box as commentators search for something interesting to talk about near the end of another Suns smashing, we won’t see Lynch in Gold Coast colours again. Three excruciating months that cannot pass quickly enough are the only hurdles Lynch must jump before he is at a powerhouse club in Collingwood or Richmond – where his heart and head have been for months.

While, it is absolutely within Tom Lynch’s rights to explore his free agency possibilities and options, as it is to decide to leave the Suns after seven and a half years of service, it is completely and utterly unacceptable for Tom Lynch to check out of the Gold Coast in the manner that he has.

It’s not how a club captain should conduct himself.

The Gold Coast Suns are in unprecedented dire straits and now more than ever, and the captain must surely take some responsibility for his football club. Instead, through speculation of his imminent departure and both his and his manager’s handling of it, the invisible captain has decided to actively nail the Gold Coast coffin shut in the name of self-interest.

Do not get me wrong, players should not be chastised for prioritising their own interests over that of their clubs. Quite the contrary. The short lifespan of playing careers must see player’s make decisions for what is best for their careers and their prosperity, their club’s needs must be secondary. 

Different story if you’re a club captain.

Selfishness does not fly if you’re captain. You cannot have your on-field leader making decisions that are pushing your club to the brink of no-return, not just through deciding to abandon ship but more refusing to tell those in charge what your plans are. This is what Tom Lynch is doing despite repeated requests. He should – even through a wink or a nudge – inform them that he is planning on leaving. That is what a leader would do. The person who doesn’t does not deserve to be captain.

While some may say that Tom Lynch was put into an awkward position, being appointed captain before he decided to duck out the back door of Carrara, the honourable thing to do was to step down as captain prior to the beginning of the season.

If you are not committed to the football club, especially if you’re committed to leaving it, captaincy is not for you. Lynch had clearly made up his mind to leave the Gold Coast before the season started. If being offered the biggest AFL contract ever assembled does not make you want to sign, it’s apparent that your decision has already been made.

This is not to be critical of all captains who farewelled their disciples. The most famous example in modern times is Chris Judd’s departure from the West Coast Eagles, 12 months after becoming their second ever premiership captain. Judd played out the 2007 season with gusto  – it’s the only way he knew how. He gave his all for the club’s jumper. Even though he was not committed to the football club in the long term, Juddy was still committed to the club’s fortunes for that season, and if he was not he did a bloody good job of disguising it.

If you cannot commit fully, the illusion of commitment is the next best thing. Tom Lynch cannot even manage that, such is the complete failure of his captaincy and leadership. At times this year, rather than giving his all, Lynch has looked disinterested. Rather than willing his team on, he has looked like he wants to catch the first plane out of the joint.

The club is becoming increasingly “frustrated” with Lynch according to the Herald Sun due recently to his refusal to speak to the media after it was revealed his season was over due to a knee injury. The club is staring and the brink of oblivion and their soon-to-be uncontracted captain couldn’t even summon the courage to hold a presser? Such is his dedication to the cause, I suppose. Some captains lead from the front. Others don’t lead – they are captains in name alone.

To make matters worse for the Suns, reports have emerged that their other co-captain Steven May is a possibility of leaving the club at year’s end as well. This, despite being contracted for the 2019 season. There is speculation that Port Adelaide and Collingwood are both very interested. This would see the club’s fortunes drop even further. It would leave the club with only thirty-two year old Michael Rischitelli (who remains uncontracted), David Swallow, Pearce Hanley and Jarrod Harbrow as their only real established players and automatic AFL starters. Who could replace Lynch and May as captain should they both leave?

So Tom, as you ran out in front of 80,000 at the MCG through a black and white banner or feel the colosseum shake as the words “yellow and black” punctuate another Richmond win, you will no doubt feel comfortable with your move and the way you’ve conducted yourself prior to it. The ends will justify the means.

However, spare a thought for those who followed their captain at Carrara when his heart and soul were not even there.

They may be learning what leadership truly is, by experiencing what is truly is not.


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