GOLD Coast has had a year to experiment with what the future looks like in a post-Tom Lynch world.

Injuries forced coach Stuart Dew to spin the magnets at times last year and play structures that looked unrecognisable to line-ups that had played just weeks before.

Three different identities appeared across the course of the year.

Early in the season, Alex Sexton was the top dog as Gold Coast played a high-risk, high-reward game style with a wide-open forward line for the speedy Sun to run into.

Following the bye, the Suns tested out the three-tall combination with Sam Day, Ben King and Peter Wright spending time up forward, with one of Day or Wright chopping out Jarrod Witts in the ruck.

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The final formation was King and Day, with Wright playing in the NEAFL for five of the last eight matches of the season.

So which of these identities should be the go-to for Dew in 2020?

Stuart Dew has some big decisions to make around the structure of his attack. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

By the numbers

The gameplan used to be pretty simple – just kick it to Lynch.

In 2018, the Suns targeted Lynch in the forward arc 91 times in just 10 matches, while Sexton was the target just 38 times in his 22 matches.

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The 2019 season saw Sexton's forward numbers nearly double in a range of areas.

He was the target 61 times, saw his marks inside 50 jump from 12 in 2018 to 21 in 2019 and managed 27 scores from set shots instead of the 12 he had in 2018.

2019 forward breakdown




I50 Targets

Marks I50

Set Shot Scores

Alex Sexton






Peter Wright






Ben King






Sam Day






What does a Sexton-led forward look like?

Touk Miller takes a huge gamble launching a kick through the corridor as the Saints scramble to get back. If Miller's kick is turned over, the Suns are hugely outnumbered in the backline and would more than likely concede a score.

What actually happened was one of the most exciting sequences for the Suns for the whole season, with Sexton running into an open goal.

With the way most clubs press up the field, launching a counterattack from the backline can cut teams apart, but it's not always sustainable.

The case for the Sexton-led forward line

The win-loss column is the biggest driver for building the forward line's identity around Sexton.

The Suns won three of their first four games in 2019, with the one loss coming to St Kilda in round one by just one point.

Sexton kicked 12 goals in that patch, and probably should have had more considering his 4.5 effort in round two against Fremantle.

Alex Sexton booted 39 goals as a key forward last season. Picture: AFL Photos

The Suns proceeded to lose every game after that first four weeks and managed a score over 80 points just once in that span.

Wright and King are contracted until 2022 and both have looked comfortable pushing further up the field, which could allow Sexton to play as the pseudo full-forward like the Magpies do with Jordan De Goey.

What happens when you hand the keys to King?

If you're looking for how to beat a backline that defends the leading space in front of you, Aaron Naughton summed it up well: lead up right behind the defender and then cut back.

Watch how King shakes off Hooker for just a moment with the quick spin, which gives King just room to take this great contested mark.

King's forward craft is already outstanding as a 19-year-old and he's only going to get better.

The case for structuring the forward line around King

Flanking King with one other tall forward and a range of fleet-footed crumbers probably gives the Suns enough contested marking coverage while maintaining forward pressure.

When he's on, he's efficient in front of goals and can beat defenders on the lead and in the air.

King led the team in marks inside 50, despite not taking one in five of his 14 games.

Having said that, the Suns actually averaged fewer marks inside 50 as a team after King was slotted into the side.

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The case against building this year's attack around King as a focal point revolves around putting too many eggs in one basket.

The pressure to be the top dog in your second year of football is tough, and even having one of Wright or Day as your second-in-command might not stop the double- and triple-teams King is likely to see.

How would three talls actually work?

The spacing in this clip is probably the best example of how the Suns can make the trio of talls work.

Sexton starts the chain up really high, King is next at centre half-forward and then Day takes the mark with Wright also working back towards goal.

That's an ideal spacing sequence, but what might happen more often than not is stagnant play leading into long bombs.

King takes a mark here, but having all three of the tall forwards flying for the same ball can leave the Suns exposed on the rebound if the ball hits the deck.

Leading space gets clogged easily and the forward pressure can drop, but there's not many sides that can deal with three relatively mobile tall forwards.

The case for the triple-threat

The game against Essendon was probably one of Gold Coast's best for the year.

The Suns kicked 96 points in round 19, comfortably their most for the year.

King kicked four goals, Day had three and Wright finished with two, while the Suns finished with 13 marks inside 50.

00:29 Mins
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A big bomb from Peter Wright

Peter Wright kicks a superb set shot goal from outside 50m

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The Bombers won that game, but for long periods the Suns looked the better side.

Having both Wright and Day will make teams think twice about ganging up on King, but having extra bodies in the forward line will mean King will have to play further away from goal.

So what now?

What Dew decides to do this year might not necessarily be what he sees as the long-term future.

Sexton is contracted until 2023, King and Wright are contracted until 2022 and Day has until the end of 2021.

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The Suns also have Josh Corbett and Jack Lukosius to consider, with both players contracted until the end of 2022.

There are a number of options, but someone is going to have to play in the NEAFL if everyone is fit.