UNDER the watchful eye of Cameron Joyce, Gold Coast has undergone a rejuvenation in the 18 months since he was appointed head coach.

A total of 15 players who played at least one game under Joyce in season six early last year are no longer at the club and the Suns have been very specific in their subsequent recruiting.

"A majority of those changes were our doing. It was all about trying to get better and improve. Obviously, expansion had a part to play in that as well," Joyce told womens.afl about the significant player turnover.

"But certainly, from the whole club point of view, we just want to keep getting better, we want to keep trying to find ways to improve our list, improve our gamestyle, improve our program and give the players the best opportunity to be as good as they can."

Quietly spoken and thoughtful, Joyce is realistic about where his side sits and where the improvement needs to come from in order to challenge the next echelon of sides.

As a team who has developed a brand around being strong at the contest and consistently bringing plenty of pressure, he has identified that the next phase of growth lies in their outside run.

"There's obviously a balance to everything, because like everything in footy, you've got to give up something to get something," Joyce explained.

"One of the things we pride ourselves on is being really good at the contest, but at the same time we can't just be good at that, we need to keep evolving."

Cameron Joyce speaks to his Gold Coast players during round nine, season seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Gold Coast has recruited to address this during the off season.

The addition of attacking runner Niamh McLaughlin from Ireland, who will likely land in Australia sometime in August depending on the success of Donegal, her Gaelic football team, is an exciting prospect. As is fellow Irishwoman Clara Fitzpatrick from St Kilda who offers plenty of run coming out of defence.

Support on other lines will be offered by midfielders Maddy Brancatisano and Ella Maurer, forward Jordan Membrey and fresh talent Darcie Davies, Cara McCrossan and Meara Girvan.

Joyce has had broad experience when it comes to building an AFLW list. Spending time at North Melbourne as the club built its inaugural women's program has in some ways helped to inform his refurbishment of Gold Coast.

"Both of them are very different," Joyce said of the two clubs.

"At the same time, it's just trying to work through what are you looking for in players? How do you go about building a team, building a list and a program? When I first came in here it was how do we build both culture and high performance. Sometimes the hardest thing about building high performance is that you've got to have seen it.

"If you haven't seen it, it's really difficult to say 'hey, guess what, we're going to lift our standards'."


Hence, recruiting some athletes who have played sport at elite levels elsewhere, like McLaughlin, Brancatisano and Membrey. Part of that high performance development has also been aided this preseason by a full weekday of training being added to the schedule.

A club-led initiative, most teams have a day training session included in their preseason plans this year, with the Suns spending Tuesdays at the club.

Now able to address things in quick, effective conversations soon after they have happened, rather than waiting for the next session has been a gamechanger for Joyce and his Suns.

"It's just the nitty gritty, the extra little bit of stuff, which is purely off the back of the time we now get," Joyce said.

Time is the biggest gift for clubs still working to establish themselves and build cohesion across an evolving playing list. And for the first time in their short history, the Suns have had time.