FEBRUARY 10 was supposed to be the day Gold Coast’s season ended before it even started. 

That was the day scans confirmed Ben King had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament at training and would miss the entire 2022 season. 

You can’t plan for disasters of this magnitude – and you can’t replace Ben King with anyone, aside from the guy wearing No. 12 for St Kilda right now – but the Suns made some moves during the trade and draft period that kept their season alive before they even realised it. 

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They added Levi Casboult via the Rookie Draft, who has proven to be tremendous value at 32, kicking 34 goals – level with his personal best season in 2017 – from 18 games in his finest season to date. 

Mabior Chol and Levi Casboult celebrate a Gold Coast goal against Carlton in R4, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

But it is the stunning form of Mabior Chol that has come as an even greater surprise. 

The 25-year-old had never kicked more than nine goals in a season prior to this year. In fact, Chol only kicked 24 goals in 31 appearances across six seasons at Punt Road. 

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After 20 rounds of 2022, Chol has booted 43 goals to sit equal eighth in the Coleman Medal race, level with Tom Lynch, a goal behind Aaron Naughton and three off Max King. Let that sink in for a moment.

Astounding company when you consider Chol couldn’t get a look in at Richmond and was delisted at the end of 2018 before the Tigers reselected him in the Rookie Draft after every other club overlooked him. 

01:49 Mins
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Chol's big day out lifts Suns to massive win

Mabior Chol was at his dominant best as he slammed home four goals to lead his side to a huge win over the Dockers

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Chol is one of only two players in the AFL to kick a goal in all 19 games this year, along with Melbourne star Bayley Fritsch, who has also kicked 43 goals this season. 

When Gold Coast secured Chol as an unrestricted free agent on a four-year deal last October, not much was made of the acquisition. Callum Coleman-Jones’ decision to leave the Swinburne Centre for Arden Street attracted much more coverage. 

But with three rounds to play in the home and away season, Chol has built a serious case to be considered the recruit of the year, especially when you factor in the King injury and the position on the ground he plays. 

Leading Goalkickers

Goals

Shots at Goal

Shot at Goal Accuracy

Score Assists

Inside 50 Targets (retention rate) 

F50 Marks

1v1 Win rate 

C. Curnow

59

100

59%

13

150 (43.3%)

2.9

36.1%

J. Cameron

54

95

56.8%

20

104 (51%)

3.1

17.5%

T. Hawkins

51

91

56%

36

143 (53.8%)

3.9

48.6%

P. Wright

47

76

61.8%

19

156 (34%) 

2.8

21.5%

M. King

46

94

48.9%

12

158 (46.8%) 

3.4

39.4%

A. Naughton

44

80

55%

17

116 (40.5%)

2.5

28.4%

C. Cameron

44

73

60.3%

22

110 (57.3%)

2.3

23.1%

B. Fritsch

43

73

58.9%

22

94 (45.7%)

2.1

28.2%

M. Chol

43

68

63.2%

8

82 (39%)

1.8

32.9%

T. Lynch

43

71

60.6%

12

126 (42.1%)

3.0

39.4%


Having shown flashes of their potential in past lives, Tyson Stengle and Paddy McCartin have been revelations in 2022 after overcoming two very different roads back to the AFL. 

Stengle has almost matched his SANFL haul last season in a year where his AFL redemption story has gotten better and better by the week. 

The former Tiger and Crow has kicked 37 goals for the season, forming a lethal combination alongside Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron to ensure his name is discussed when the All-Australian selectors meet later this month. 

01:15 Mins
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Stengle wows in first outing as a Cat

Tyson Stengle produced a special four-goal haul in his first outing as a Cat

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McCartin has put four frustrating seasons behind him this year to emerge as one of the best intercepting defenders in the AFL, after being provided an AFL lifeline at the SCG via the pre-season supplemental selection period.

The 26-year-old is rated elite for intercept marks and above average for disposals and intercept possessions among key defenders in a stunning positional change that has reaped rewards for John Longmire’s side in 2022. 

But when it comes to players recruited from rival clubs last year, Will Brodie and George Hewett come close to Chol. 

00:38 Mins
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Brodie gets his first for Freo in style

Will Brodie kicks his first goal for the Dockers with a great snap and assisted by Andrew Brayshaw

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Brodie is rated by Champion Data as the most improved player in the AFL in 2022 rising from an average rating of 4.9 last year to 13.2 this season, while Hewett has made the fourth biggest increase since moving from Sydney to Carlton. 

Unlike Chol, Brodie was a high draft pick – pick No. 9 in 2016 – who didn’t work out at the Gold Coast Suns. But just like Chol, Brodie was starved of opportunity at Metricon Stadium, managing only five games in 2021 and just 25 across his five seasons in Queensland. 

The 23-year-old had only ever had more than 27 disposals once before this season – and never reached 30 – but has averaged 28 disposals across 20 rounds this year, amassing 30+ on five occasions, including 37 twice. A staggering spike from almost nowhere. 

AFL Player ratings increase* 

Player

2021 Avg.

2022 Avg.

Increase

W. Brodie 

4.9

13.2

+8.3

J. Newcombe 

4.8

12.3

+7.5

T. Xerri 

2.0

8.9

+6.9

G. Hewett 

9.0

14.8

+5.8

S. Coniglio 

8.0

13.6

+5.6

T. English 

10.6

15.8

+5.2

M. Rowell 

8.3

13.5

+5.2

N. Blakey 

7.3

12.4

+5.1

J. Clark 

4.5

9.4

+4.9

J. De Goey 

9.1

14.0

+4.9

K. Coleman 

5.2

10.1

+4.9

*Min. 5 games per season and 20 games total.

Brodie is averaging 28 disposals, 12.5 contested possessions – rated elite – 5.9 clearances and 4.8 tackles per game to become a force for Justin Longmuir, alongside Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong, standing up in the absence of two-time Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe. 

Adam Cerra may have attracted far more attention for his departure from the Dockers, but Brodie has delivered much more than the club bargained for. 

And when you consider the Shepparton product arrived in Perth along with pick No. 19 in exchange for a second and fourth round pick in this year’s NAB AFL Draft, you scratch your head wondering how this could happen to the Suns again. Think Peter Wright. Think Jarryd Lyons. 

Will Brodie after Fremantle v Essendon in R5, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

The club had its reasons, but Brodie has mounted a case over the past five months to put his name up alongside Chol as the recruit of the year. 

Then there is Hewett who was pursued by the Blues for 12 months before he arrived at Princes Park on a four-year deal after Sydney chose not to match the offer for the restricted free agent. 

Hewett played 120 games in the red and white, but never to this level.

The 26-year-old has complemented Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh in Michael Voss’ engine room, averaging 28.5 disposals, 12.7 contested possessions, 6.6 clearances and 4.8 tackles from 15 appearances in navy blue. 

00:42 Mins
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Hewett provides hope as crafty kick finally prevails

The Blues were desperate for a goal and gun recruit George Hewett obliges with this superb kick

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Pat Lipinski has proven to be very good value for money since crossing to Collingwood, averaging 23.3 disposals from all 19 games after being starved of opportunities at the Whitten Oval. 

Jordan Dawson was a star at Sydney and has continued his ascent into the elite bracket at Adelaide, showing why he cost a future first round pick to get the deal done last October. 

Last year’s trade period didn’t deliver blockbuster deals, but it did deliver bargains that should ensure even more movement this year.