2023 shapes as a massive year for the team I’ve followed since its inception.
After showing great signs last year, injuries once again played a massive factor in team being unable to follow trough and make good. Guys like Will Powell, Connor Budarick, Lachie Weller and Ben King missed extended periods of time and proved tough covers, however, through the darkness some Suns shone at their brightest
I’m optimistic that my side will finally feature in finals in 2023. Yes, we lost Rankine and Bowes from our team and while those losses will be felt in a massive way, I believe there are some big things about to happen up in Queensland – and I’m not just talking about the Lions.
It’s been said often, but this season shapes as a make-or-break year for the club – and here are the five things I’m most looking forward to in 2023.
Call me a sadist, but there are few sights I enjoy more than Nick Holman being a kamikaze missile with his defensive pressure in the Suns’ forward line. Aside from big Levi Casboult (who is coming off a career-high in goals) and the battering ram David Swallow, there was a noticeable absence of legitimate mongrel running around inflicting damage on ball carriers.
Matt Rowell was one of the best tacklers in the AFL, however, does not yet possess the fearful physical edge of his predecessors. Gold Coast have addressed this by shrewdly adding Ben Long and Tom Berry to the side. Long, in particular, will add a tough edge to the rebounding prowess of the Gold Coast defence, with his trademark attack on the football has the ability to lift teammates around him, whereas Berry gets a legitimate shot to earn playing time in around the ball.
Return Of The King And The Young Prince
What we got from the unlikely combination of Mabior Chol and Levi Casboult was downright remarkable, considering this combination consisted of a hybrid ruck/forward paired with another spearhead who had been an incredibly unreliable shot for goal in his career. The pair combined for 79 goals, making them the most unlikely, albeit damaging duos in the competition.
Returning to the fold comes enigmatic big forward Ben King, who is chomping at the bit to lead the attack for the Suns after his ACL reconstruction. I’m very excited to see what this legitimate “three-headed monster” can produce, especially if the Gold Coast midfield can provide quality ball inside fifty, and the Suns forwards get the right spacing.
Waiting in the wings is likely top 10 draft choice Jed Walter, who profiles as the best key forward in the 2023 draft class. Walter – a Suns academy member was named at CHF in the U18 championships, kicking nine goals for the Allies in their four games. Standing 197cm he profiles a bit like Jeremy Cameron, with great smarts and work rate coupled with a competitive edge and accuracy. One prolific scout has said that “Jed Walter is the best Queensland prospect since Nick Riewoldt”
Son Of A Gun And The Chosen One
A massive key to Gold Coast taking the next step is the rise of Noah Anderson. He went from being “Matty Rowell’s best mate” to one of the most improved players in the AFL in 2022. Early on, he displayed a habit of rushing his disposal, however, he seemed to come back after the bye week with renewed focus, showing much more precise ball movement and adding a goal-kicking edge to his game – you might have seen a pretty nice kick for goal after the home game vs Richmond. I believe that’s the tip of the iceberg, as he also showed a greater chemistry with gun ruckman Jarrod Witts, taking some of the offensive heat from Touk Miller. Reports are that he has come back in fantastic shape, and will be a catalyst in the Suns’ charge up the ladder.
For me, Touk Miller was the best two-way player in the AFL last season. There was a recent photo of him that emerged during some preseason work, suggesting that Miller, “the man who never takes a day off” had indeed not taken a day off over the break. With an unmatched intensity, he quickly became one of the AFL’s biggest overnight stars – which coincidently occurred when the Suns finally received some prime-time coverage. Miller’s game won over the commentary team when he was given the opportunity to shine. Gold Coast made the perfect choice with him as one of the leaders, as he is one of the few that leads with words and actions.
The Next Big Thing
When Gold Coast took Elijah Hollands at pick seven in the 2020 draft, not many outside AFL fans likely batted an eyelid, however, Gold Coast got a steal.
Had it not been for an ACL injury suffered he would have been a legitimate challenger for the number one pick. In my opinion, Hollands is about ready to explode, possessing a powerful body, penetrating kick on either side, competitiveness and tenacity. I urge everybody to keep an eye on him. In just his third game he put the AFL world on notice with 23 disposals and two goals against Hawthorn, playing as a hybrid wing/half forward. Some inside midfield time could be on the cards, but regardless, Hollands is already a handful one-on-one.
Jumping Joel Jeffery
Yes, there’s a ton of excitement surrounding our list for 2023 and a big gap to fill with the departure of Izak Rankine. Malcolm Rosas Jr and Hewago “Ace” Oea will get the duties early, however, Joel Jeffery provided a massive spark when given his opportunity. The positive is there is legitimate competition amongst the small forward group to pressurise and perform and Jeffery shone massively when the Gold Coast moved to Alice Springs for a few weeks midyear.
He possessed an uncanny goal sense, coupled with a dangerous mix of athleticism, agility, aerial nous and pure excitement. The reality is that I could have named any of the Suns’ smaller forwards- particularly Ben Ainsworth, who challenged the likes of Cameron, Fritsch, Stengle and Papley in the upper echelon of small forwards in the competition.