Jared Brennan has been leading the way so far this pre-season
Snapshot: When Gold Coast chairman John Witheriff recently declared his desire for a premiership by 2015, many believed he was putting coach Guy McKenna – and the players – on notice. The Suns' football department has responded by imposing heavier workloads and demanding greater intensity from the players in the pre-Christmas period under the guidance of former longtime Adelaide conditioning coach Steven Schwerdt. And the Suns believe the results of their toil will eventually speak for themselves. They kick-started their campaign by embarking on their second successive pre-season trip to Arizona, for 16 days, and considered it a raging success, as it helped draw the group closer and develop a strong fitness base. The coaching panel has also been strengthened by the recruitment of former Carlton and Melbourne assistant Mark Riley, ex-Port Adelaide coach Matthew Primus and Sydney Swans 2005 premiership player Ben Mathews.
Break: The Suns finished on December 21 and resume on January 7.
Draftee watch: The Suns' top two draftees, Jesse Lonergan and Tim Sumner, have been so impressive that club football operations manager Marcus Ashcroft believes they could make an immediate impact in 2013. "They both played senior footy in their respective state leagues and the way they've trained since they've joined us, we think they could play some senior footy in their first season," he said. The Suns' other newcomers, rookies Andrew Boston and Leigh Osborne, are also well settled, having trained with the club for a fortnight before the rookie draft.
Burning: For Ashcroft, two names immediately come to mind: elevated rookie Kyle Horsley and Jared Brennan. "Kyle is an ultra-competitive player who just pushes himself to the limit. He's always in the top couple in our 2km time trial and he's gone to another level," Ashcroft said. "Jared's attitude has been terrific and we hope he can take that into the new year and the season." Harley Bennell, Greg Broughton and Brandon Matera have also been prominent. "We always knew Brandon would become a good player and he's given himself every chance by improving his fitness base and skill level," Ashcroft said.
Medical room: Nathan Bock (fractured right tibia) and Seb Tape (knee reconstruction) are the only two Suns recovering from long-term injuries, and both are on track with their rehab. Tape is already running and the Suns are hoping Bock will be doing the same by the end of January. Skipper Gary Ablett had a minor back issue in early December but is fully recovered and back in full training.
What they say: "We've been really happy with the progress we've made. We've got new conditioning staff on board with Steven Schwerdt, who has run a very professional, organised, structured program. In Arizona, the players responded magnificently, and they've come back and continued in the same vein. A lot of players are in their third year, and some have been around longer, so we've shifted the focus to pushing them hard where we can because we know the expectations on us on field will rise, and we've also got high expectations internally." – football operations manager Marcus Ashcroft.
NAB Cup schedule:
Round one: v Brisbane Lions and Hawthorn, Metricon Stadium, Saturday, February 23
Round two: v North Melbourne, Townsville, Saturday, March 2
Round three: v Sydney Swans, Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday, March 9
The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of the clubs or the AFL