Damien Hardwick speaks to the media during a Gold Coast training session on November 27, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Ins and outs


Sam Clohesy (Rookie Draft), Will Graham (No.26 draft pick, Academy), Jack Mahony (Rookie Draft), Ethan Read (No.9 draft pick, Academy), Jake Rogers (No.14 draft pick, Academy), Will Rowlands (Rookie Draft), Jed Walter (No.3 draft pick, Academy)


Jed Anderson (delisted), Connor Blakely (retired), Chris Burgess (trade, Adelaide), Mabior Chol (trade, Hawthorn), Charlie Constable (retired), Elijah Hollands (trade, Carlton), Brodie McLaughlin (delisted), Jeremy Sharp (delisted), Jake Stein (delisted)

Jed Walter poses for a photo during the AFL Draft media opportunity on November 21, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Medical room

All eyes are on Ben King ahead of Opening Round as the full-forward slowly returns from a knee problem that cut his 2023 season three games short. King is ramping up his training and it’s hoped he’ll play some part in the Suns’ second pre-season hit-out against Greater Western Sydney. Number three draft pick Jed Walter (collarbone) will likely be available in the early rounds, while dashing defender Lachie Weller is in the midst of a comeback from his second ACL injury in two years and is expected back later in the season.

Three burning questions

What impact can Damien Hardwick have?
Gold Coast got its man after sacking Stuart Dew last season and now all eyes will be on Hardwick and the impact he can have on the young Suns. Expect them to play a similar brand of footy to that which swept Richmond to three premierships in four years, but how quickly will the younger group adapt?

Will Ben King make a jump?
Already one of the most exciting younger key forwards in the competition, King had a fine 2023 after missing the previous year with a ruptured ACL. The 23-year-old kicked 40 goals from 20 games, with a five-goal haul against Brisbane late in the year demonstrating the impact he could have. Another improvement would go some way to helping his team climb the ladder.

Is this midfield the real deal?
It feels like a great start with co-captains Jarrod Witts and Touk Miller along with emerging stars Noah Anderson (top-10 in last year’s Brownlow Medal) and Matt Rowell, but the Suns need more depth in the middle of the ground. Sam Flanders added his name to the mix late last season with a withering 10-game burst, veteran David Swallow can spend time there, but will Bailey Humphrey, Brayden Fiorini or even explosive Ben Ainsworth be asked to spend more time around the contest to ease the workload on the regulars.

Damien Hardwick is seen at Gold Coast training on January 15, 2024. Picture: Gold Coast FC

Track watch

Everyone has been out to impress the new coach and a few younger players haven’t missed their chance. Humphrey, who was dealing with injury for much of his first pre-season 12 months ago, looks like a new athlete with his powerful running and exciting midfield glimpses in match simulation. Bodhi Uwland has been stationed in defence and pressing hard for an early season position, while veterans Alex Sexton (defence) and Darcy Macpherson (forward) have switched ends and been standouts.

Fantasy lock

At his best, Noah Anderson (MID, $907,000) can score with the elite as we saw on several occasions in his fourth season on his way to a career-high average of 100.5. His ceiling is eye catching with three scores over 130, which included a season-high 159. He has improved his average every year to date and if he can find a greater level of consistency under Damien Hardwick, he can take it to another level.

Instant hit

The club’s four Academy draftees all have a chance of playing this season. Walter would likely have played in Opening Round before his injury, but still shouldn’t be far away, while Will Graham is thereabouts for a half-back spot. Jake Rogers has overcome a back injury and is now training strongly, although he has a little ground to make up, while towering Ethan Read has caught the eye.

Will Graham is presented with his guernsey by Damien Hardwick at the 2023 AFL Draft on November 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

It's a big year for…

Look no further than the coach, Damien Hardwick. Although it’s silly to say the expectations of the club rest on his shoulders, Hardwick’s imprint will be obvious in his first season in charge. After almost 14 years at Richmond, it’s not only 45 new playing faces, but a new club and a new living environment that he is adjusting to. Hardwick can lay the foundations for a successful stint at the Suns with a list that is primed to climb the ladder.

Pass mark

Making the top eight. Although it’s a difficult ask with such an even competition, the Suns have been in position midway through the past two seasons (7-6 in 2022 and 6-6 in 2023) before falling away. They have a proven coach and have matured together over the past four or five seasons.

Ben King in action during a Gold Coast training session on January 15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Best 23 for 2024

B: Mac Andrew, Sam Collins, Bodhi Uwland
HB: Lachie Weller, Charlie Ballard, Wil Powell
C: Brayden Fiorini, Noah Anderson, Brandon Ellis
HF: Sam Flanders, Jed Walter, Ben Ainsworth
F: Nick Holman, Ben King, Jack Lukosius
Foll: Jarrod Witts, Matt Rowell, Touk Miller
I/C: Joel Jeffrey, Bailey Humphrey, David Swallow, Malcolm Rosas Jnr, Darcy Macpherson
Emerg: Connor Budarick, Alex Davies, Jake Rogers, Levi Casboult