In a nutshell
Three wins from Gold Coast's first five matches looked promising but it went downhill quickly. A raft of injuries, Tom Lynch wanting out and 16 losses from its last 17 matches added up to a forgettable season.
What we said in the pre-season
Following Gary Ablett's departure and the introduction of new coach Stuart Dew, it was tough to gauge expectations. We said if the top 25 players stayed fit the Suns would be competitive and called on more resilience from a club that had traditionally fallen away in matches. We thought Lachie Weller would have a strong impact in his first season.
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Getting Lachie Weller. You can rightfully argue the Suns paid too much to get him, but Weller grew as the season progressed and can be a pivotal long-term piece.
Alex Sexton playing forward. Having played almost everywhere on the field in his first six seasons, Sexton was stationed as a permanent half-forward and flourished to be the club's leading goalkicker with 28.
More responsibility to young midfielders. Partly through injury and partly through lack of form from senior players, Dew threw youngsters Jack Bowes, Brayden Fiorini, Ben Ainsworth and Will Brodie more responsibility and the final month showed they were capable of another step in 2019.
Losing Tom Lynch. Getting his signature was the most important thing for Gold Coast entering 2018 – and it failed.
Injuries to key players. It's a recurring theme for the Suns – Lynch, Pearce Hanley, Peter Wright and Aaron Hall all missed big chunks of the season. Whether it's the players, the coaches or the fitness staff, something isn't working.
Contested footy. Improving this area was going to be Dew's trademark. The Suns won the count in just four matches – their four victories. There's a lesson in there.
D. With a new coach and tough travel schedule the bar was set pretty low but winning one of their last 17 matches just wasn't good enough.
Dew will hope that's the toughest year in his coaching career. Kept the game plan simple and tried to focus on effort-based markers like tackling. Perhaps the best thing Dew introduced was a "no excuse" attitude. Whether it was injuries or a tough travel schedule, he didn't whinge. Has a mountain to climb to change the Suns' fortunes still.
Can Stuart Dew turn around the Suns' fortunes? Picture: AFL Photos
The Lynch saga dogged Gold Coast for much of the year and once the power forward had knee surgery, his future completely dominated talks. Steven May is a free agent in 2019 and has been non-committal about his future beyond that. After Ablett and Lynch have walked, the Suns can't afford to enter another season with a question mark over their captain.
Jarrod Witts: Perhaps not Gold Coast's best player, but almost certainly its most crucial. With Tom Nicholls injured and green Brayden Crossley the only other ruckman on the list, Witts took on a mammoth workload and did it well. A nod to Jarrod Harbrow for another sensational season and someone his teammates should aspire to emulate.
Nick Holman: Given a lifeline after being delisted by Carlton and spending two years in the SANFL, Holman was a constant for the Suns and earned himself another contract.
Jack Bowes: Thrown into the midfield for the final three games, Bowes started to deliver on the promise of a top-10 draft pick. Looked right at home among some of the game's best midfielders.
Pearce Hanley: Dislocated his shoulder twice, requiring surgery after the second incident, and then pinged his hamstring against Richmond. Will the Suns ever see the best of the classy Irishman?
After 11 straight losses, this was arguably the biggest upset in a decade and probably the greatest win in club history. The Suns trailed by 29 points at the first change but kicked 11 goals to two from thereon to storm to the most unlikely victory.
Best individual performance
Miller tagged All Australian Dayne Zorko, keeping the explosive midfielder to just 10 touches while having 21 (and seven clearances) of his own. Miller won the Marcus Ashcroft Medal and helped guide his team to a five-point win.
There was a few to choose from – blowing a 31-point final quarter lead against St Kilda, losing by 85 points in the round 11 return to Metricon Stadium – but when Lynch announced his departure, the wind was out of the sails.
The big questions
1. Will captain Steven May sign beyond 2019?
2. Can the Suns attract established players through trade or free agency?
3. With just four wins for the season, a percentage below 60, and experienced talent set to leave, have the Suns hit rock bottom?
Season in a song
Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
Retirements: Matt Rosa
Unsigned free agents: Jarrod Harbrow, Tom Lynch, Michael Rischitelli
How should they approach trade and draft period?
The Suns will likely have a bevy of first-round picks come draft time so get as much talent as possible and trade in the odd experienced player looking for more opportunities. It's not a popular notion, but the Suns are building again from the bottom up.
Early call for 2019
The Suns should use rivals Brisbane as a blueprint. Forget win totals, the priority is becoming consistent every week and creating a happy club where players want to sign long-term.
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