THE ASSISTANCE package gifted to Gold Coast by the AFL Commission in late September has already proved to be a home run of help for the Suns. 

But there's a couple of unintended consequences the club has to be wary of.

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While the list of pros far – and, I repeat, FAR – outweighs the cons, there are a few little issues that have popped up in the months following the announcement that need consideration.

Before readers jump up and down, these are issues every other club would love to deal with, but are things nonetheless that need to be kept in mind by the battling Suns.

Most revolve around the list size.

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Currently Gold Coast has 51 players on its books, plus international scholarship holder Hewago Paul Oea (better known as "Ace") who is permitted to play in the NEAFL in 2020.

Hard-nut midfielder Anthony Miles put it simply: "The AFL hasn't seen a list this big".

The changerooms had to get redesigned to fit more lockers in.

- Suns midfielder Anthony Miles

Every other team has between 43 and 46 players, depending on the number of Category B rookies they have.

Let's take a look at the myriad of positives from the concessions, which largely revolved around the 2019 NAB AFL Draft.

Gold Coast would have entered the draft with selections one and 15 (in the first two rounds) without the assistance.

Instead they started with one, two, 15 and 20, allowing them to pick Noah Anderson – best mate of top selection Matt Rowell – and also trade up to select Sam Flanders at No.11.

Anderson and Flanders are players they otherwise would not have had.

The Suns also traded up (using an extra first-round pick from next year's draft) to grab West Australian defender Jeremy Sharp at No.27, but he would have been available with their existing 15th selection.

Suns draftee Jeremy Sharp in action at training. Picture: AFL Photos

There was also the ability to pre-sign academy players without bidding, which they did with under-18 All Australian Connor Budarick.

Who knows if the club would have been able to match a bid without this provision?

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As part of their new Academy zone, they also selected Darwin product Malcolm Rosas without needing to match a bid.

But here's where the double-edged sword comes in.

Budarick and Rosas are two of 10 rookie players – plus Oea and Category B rookie Luke Towey – on the list.

First-year Sun Malcolm Rosas at training after he joined the club as a zone selection. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

With 52 players and Gold Coast Academy players on the training track, multiple coaches told AFL.com.au it felt a bit like country footy.

"It's easy to have players slip through the cracks," one said. This goes for coaching as well as the high-performance team.

For a club that has traditionally struggled with retention, this is something to be mindful of.

Gold Coast has had to consider resourcing in both its coaching and welfare departments in the past 12 months and have taken steps to do so again.

Justin Koschitzke has gone from one day a week to two in his part-time coaching role, while Andrew Swallow's hours have also been beefed up, including a more hands-on role with the first-year players.

The welfare team is now seven-strong and among one of the best resourced in the League.

Gold Coast assistant coach Andrew Swallow will play a bigger role in 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

 

The other major issue that needs working through is whether everyone can get a game.

Although Gold Coast has been decimated by injury most years of its existence, a fit list poses a problem.

With only 23 players required by both the AFL (including a game-day emergency) and NEAFL to field a team, that leaves five, and potentially six, players to twiddle their thumbs.

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So, what will the Suns do?

They initially approached AFL Queensland about possibly aligning with another club, but ultimately believed that wouldn't benefit either club or player.

While there is no concrete resolution at this stage, AFL.com.au understands the Suns are considering resting players intermittently if that 'problem' arose.

Aside from the scheduled game off here or there for most first-year players (of which they have plenty), there's also possible candidates like Rory Thompson and Izak Rankine, who missed all and most of last season respectively and will be treated cautiously in 2020.

Those decisions usually require a high degree of understanding from the players who want to be out there every week.

And the other, more likely, scenario, is Gold Coast will need top-up players for its NEAFL team if and when injuries strike.

Where possible they'd like to fill those with players from Darwin – a process that also requires significant co-ordination.

So, although it's been a slam dunk of success getting the assistance package, there's a couple of tricky things to navigate for the Suns before and during the 2020 season.

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