The Big Questions – 2024 Gold Coast Season Preview

Is this it for the Gold Coast Suns?

Is this the year it all comes together and they starter playing finals footy?

Everything seems to be in place. The main pieces of the puzzle are set and all healthy. The young stars have made the move from being good kids with potential to young men who are stars in their own right. And the club has bitten the bullet and hired a coach with a premiership pedigree to push them over the line.

But will it work?

Oh yes, that is the question on the lips of the Suns supporters as we inch closer to the beginning of the 2024 AFL season.

And what does it mean if it doesn’t?

Unlike that which headline chasers will trot out to create as much drama as possible, the truth of the matter is that if they don’t make it this year, not much will occur. It is Damien Hardwick’s first year at the helm. He’ll be feeling his way, working out which players will and won’t be part of the team he eventually leads to finals, and will put in place processes that he has seen work to ensure the Gold Coast players maintain a high standard.

If they don’t make it in year two of his tenure… watch out! The smiling, happy version of Hardwick will soon vanish.

But there is a big part of me that thinks Dimma can get it done right away. I mean, Ross Lyon did it at St Kilda.

Why not Hardwick?

Why not Gold Coast?

Why not now?


It’s that time of year, already.

The break after Christmas and New Year is over. The holidays are finished for AFL players, and the hard stuff starts now. Yes, the teams had been training for well over a month prior to Christmas, but as we head into 2024, the ante is upped and the intensity increases.

This is where premierships are won and lost. This is where improvements are made and lists come together. New faces, new colours, old heads with renewed passion… so much feeds into the making of a contender. And as the days tick down toward to the intra-club clashes, practice games, and eventually the real stuff, questions are raised about each team and how they’re going to perform in 2024.

We don’t do things by halves here, at The Mongrel Punt. When we do a season preview, we go all out to make sure it is the best, most comprehensive coverage you’ll receive. We pride ourselves on it. If you are going to read one season preview for your team, or any team, this series provides it.

The way it works is as follows.

Each club has a minimum of 15 questions asked about the upcoming season, their coaches, their players, and their expectations. The answers are not glossed over. We dive deep on each and every one – some singular answers would normally be long enough for an entire column. The first five questions/answers are free for you to consume. The next 10-14 for each club are for our members, including a special appearance from Mrs Mongrel to throw her two cents in the mix.

Isn’t it a bit early for a season preview? Well, I suppose, but do you know how long it takes to write seven thousand words? That’s 18 x 7,000… gets out the calculator… that’s 126,000 words. The average novel is about 85,000 words, so buckle the hell up with these previews.

Also, if there are any issues that arise after the publication of the preview, they will be covered in standalone articles to act as additions to this preview.

You will not read a deeper season preview than this – I guarantee it. This is where we start the run to the new season and believe me – nobody does it better than The Mongrel.




There was a bit of a shift in the Gold Coast midfield in 2023, largely due to two factors.

Number one – the duo of Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell commanded centre stage.

And number two, Touk Miller was hobbled by injury and limited to just 13 games.

What we saw, as a result, was Anderson becoming a star, rocketing up in the AFL community’s esteem to threaten the Brownlow at one point, and Rowell becoming this intense, contested beast in the midfield, moving to into the top six in the competition for both contested possessions and clearances.

More on him a bit later.

Miller rejoined the fray later in the year, but his role at times was to support the young stars as they become the go-to players in the Suns’ engine room. As proof of that, we look at the fact that Miller was unable to hit 30 touches in a game after his return from injury. This, from the bloke who strung together 15-straight games with 30 or more touches in 2022, and added 11 more 30+ games to his totals in 2022. In 2023 it was Anderson and Sam Flanders picking up the big numbers. Miller took on a secondary role, as a good leader should when dealing with injury.

To have him playing a support role gives a strong indication that the torch was, at the very least, being passed to the younger brigade…

… but Touk still may have a hand on it.

Miller is the type of player that will always do what is best for the team. Stories of his reaction to the departure of Tom Lynch all but paved the way for his ascension to the captaincy, but it is his tenacity and ruthlessness on the ground that have won him the respect in the AFL community.

Is he completely ready to step aside?

Should he step aside at all? I’m not sure he should.

A four-headed monster in the midfield, with Miller, Anderson, Flanders, and Rowell each playing their roles, would give the opposition nightmares. Miller can play both inside and outside. He has an incredible tank, and will match it physically with anyone dumb enough to take him on. With Rowell on the inside, Anderson playing the inside/outside role, and Flanders on the outside, this club possesses three distinct weapons that, deployed well, could give Ben King and company one-out contests from centre breaks more often than not. Miller is like the glue that binds them all together.

If the Suns get a healthy Miller back in the mix, they will already have an advantage over the rest of the league. Jarrod Witts is never dominated in the ruck. He might get beaten, but it is always a tough contest – at worst, the Suns mids will have a 50/50 chance to win the footy.

And with Miller jumping back in with the three young stars, we could be about to see a new midfield powerhouse unfurled. The Suns were already fourth in the league in clearances in 2023. Number one is right in their sights.



I can remember seeing some footage of Jed Walter playing in the Under 18s and I had flashbacks.

We’ve all played sport at one time or another. I, like many of you, used to play footy, and as a junior, I reckon one team in particular (a big hello to Seddon) used to play blokes who were overage. Hell, in under 15s at one stage, they had this bloke who had close to a full beard and arms like tree trunks running around. He used to crash through tackles, knock two thirds of the team over, and strut around like he was head and shoulders above everyone else.

Because he was.

That’s how it looked when Walter was attacking the footy in the Under 18s – it was like a man playing amongst boys.

Very rarely do key forwards come into the league and look as though they can compete with some of the big monsters playing in defence, but Walter is already of a size that he will not be pushed around with ease. Look, he’ll still get pushed around a little – a kid is still a kid when standing next to a defender like Steven May or Harris Andrews, but there will be points where he holds his own, as well.

I suppose the key is not to expect too much from Walter in year one, though with the hype around him, I understand it may be difficult. The last kid to come in and really go BANG as a key forward was probably Tom Hawkins. He had seven goals in his first two games, and then… five over his next seven outings.

The big blokes take time and even though he is advanced, so will Walter. The great thing is that he has some bigger bodies around him to take the heat and allow him the time to progress at his own pace.

He will be a star, undoubtedly. However, expecting him to be that right away would be foolish, and a little unfair on the kid. Let him find his way at his pace, and once he does, both he and the team will be better off for it.



The Suns have Jed Walter to move into the slot alongside Ben King, but, as stated above,  it may take the man-child time.

Given that, the Suns are going to have to lean on the big fella, Levi Casboult one more time, hoping he will stand under the long ball inside fifty, take the contact, and then crash the pack when it is his turn to get a run at it. The fortunes of the Suns inside 50 begin and end with Ben King, but he can only flourish to the extent he should with the right help.

And Levi is that help.

There will be some who turn their nose up at that suggestion, remembering Casboult as the man who battled through his Carlton tenure without much in the way of genuine success, but what they likely missed (because they don’t really watch Suns games) is the way he contested, the way he and Mabior Chol combined in the absence of King in 2022, and how Casboult was the preferred option, given the physicality of his game, to play alongside King when he returned in 2023, relegating Chol to the VFL.

The same Chol that just signed a big deal at Hawthorn.

With 59 goals over the past couple of seasons, the 33-year-old has well and truly earned his spot in this Suns team, and he has done it on the back of hard work, and fierce competitiveness. If his body holds up, he is the perfect foil for a fit Ben King, and the big protector a young bloke like Walter needs as he establishes himself in the league.

Not many would throw the name of Levi Casboult out there as a key to the Gold Coast team in 2024. There are bigger names, better players, and stars who will achieve better results, but there is an element to Levi’s game that others will not replicate in this Gold Coast team.

He will take the heat, take the hits, and dish out a few along the way. He is the muscle inside 50, and the man who will provide the big bodied blocks for the young forwards to shine. Yes, they are the marquee forwards, but a little further down the line the name of Levi Casboult could prove to be an important piece to the 2024 Suns’ finals push.



And here we go – with the midfield now looking very settled, and King able to attack the year after a full pre-season, I expect big things from him.

No more sooking. No more dropping his head when things don’t go his way. No more being nudged out of the contest and being unable to hold his ground.

He is no longer a kid, no longer a player with huge potential. He is now at the stage where he needs to be the biggest threat inside 50 at all times. He has to stand up, become The Man in the Suns’ attack.

And if he is able to do just that, we are looking at a team that can give September footy a real shake.

It looks like 2021, only with a bigger and stronger Ben King involved. Back then, he kicked 47 goals and appeared to be en route to establishing himself as one of the best forwards in the game. He was just 20 at that time.

Of course, a knee injury put paid to his rapid ascension, with King sitting out the entire 2022 season. Following that, a shoulder injury stopped his momentum heading into 2023, meaning he was playing catch up once he was able to get out on the park. Maybe his body wasn’t responding the way he liked, or maybe there was some frustration on his behalf, but King had moments in 2023 he’d like to have over again.

In four straight games, King was held goalless, and in the game against Port Adelaide, he was subbed off with just one disposal to his name in over a half of footy.

It was exactly what you didn’t want to see from a player you’ve invested so much in.

I’d like to think those games were the result of a player unable to get his body to respond, because the alternative was that he was not happy, and the Suns cannot afford someone like King to be less invested.

He is out of contract after the 2024 season and, no doubt, the rumours will begin almost as soon as the games do. Will he re-sign? Will he explore options? Will he ask for a trade?

My hope is that King puts things to rest early in the season.

Any doubts about his play or his commitment to this club could be erased with a big first month and another contract extension. All the memories of him skulking around the ground against Port, looking like a kid who didn’t get the present he wanted on his birthday will evaporate.

The stakes are huge for both King and the Suns this season.

Is this the year he gets everything right and becomes the dominant forward he’s threatened to be? Is this the year he leads the Suns inside 50 and gives opposition defenders sleepless nights as they wonder about how best to combat him? And is this the year the Suns secure him for the long term and shut up the media obsessed with him leaving?

If the answers to all of them are in the affirmative, we are looking at a great year for the Gold Coast Suns.



They’re different enough to give it a shot, with Rowell emerging as this combative monster in close, and Anderson having another excellent season after breaking out in 2022.

It’s a little bit funny to hear people talk about Rowell who really don’t watch the Suns games too often. They still have this perception of him as this wholesome kid, all smiles, and fluffy thoughts. They’ve missed the boat on him, and missed him transform those warm, fuzzy images of a boy with a notebook into a pierce warrior at stoppages.

This is not the Matt Rowell you remember from 2020.

This is a young man intent on destruction.

He was the number one tackler in the game in 2023, hurling himself at anything in an opposition jumper with the footy in their possession. His second and third efforts to drag down opponents were incredible, and they were matched by the offensive side of his game, as well.

He was ranked fourth in clearances and sixth in contested possessions, leaving no doubt as to the crux of his game. There was no warm and fuzzies about Rowell in 2023. He was as hard as any player in the game.

And Anderson was no shrinking violet when it came to the tough stuff, either. He was ranked ninth in clearances, but was also able to get out into open space and run with the footy. As a result, he was seventh in the league in metres gained – the perfect combination of inside/outside work.

These two have been linked since way before their were drafted with the first two picks and have deals ending in 2025 (Rowell) and 2027 (Anderson). They have put their faith in the club and pour their heart and souls into every contest, and I reckon it is about time the club rewarded their efforts to ignore the overtures from Victorian clubs. These two have made making Gold Coast a winning team their goal, and the club is so close, they can taste it.

With Rowell and Anderson at the helm, we may end up looking back at the day Gil McLachlan read out their names in the 2019 AFL Draft as the day the Suns truly turned the corner. Yes, it has been a slow turn, and yes, there have been some speed bumps and roadblocks in the way, as well, but though they could have jumped ship, these two have persevered.

And that perseverance may be just about to pay off.

Can they be the best one-two punch in the midfield game?

Both have done the hard stuff. Both have endured the years of pain. And both have continued to grow and develop. With Jarrod Witts giving them every chance to win the footy, 2024 could just be the year that Anderson and Rowell form the combination that will scare the hell out of opposition coaches.

And if they do, they won’t be stopping for years.



This concludes the free section of our preview. Suns fans… you get bugger all coverage anywhere else – support the site that gives you equal representation in our coverage. The next two-thirds of this article are for our members. You can join, y’know? Get this stuff all year long…


As mentioned above, the first five questions are free – the next 10-12 are for our members. I believe my work is worth twenty-five cents per day. If you don’t, that’s fine. You’re welcome to join and keep reading