Matt Rowell, Ben King and Noah Anderson after the round 07 match between Richmond and Gold Coast at Marvel Stadium, April 30, 2023 Picture: AFL Photos

A LIST stacked with talent, a senior core tied down to long-term contracts, and with arguably the best collection of Northern Academy prospects ever seen coming through this year's draft, Gold Coast is a football club any coach would want to get their hands on.

Viewed externally in the past as somewhat of a poisoned chalice, the Suns are now primed to contend and have steadily built the type of football infrastructure that should be competitive both immediately and in the long-term.

Stuart Dew's departure on Tuesday, having failed to achieve a top-eight finish throughout his tenure at the club, will give someone else the opportunity to take this stuttering but talented group to September. Finals, as early as next season, will clearly and understandably be the aim for whoever takes over.

The foundations for success are in place. Gold Coast has eight first-round picks from the last five years on its playing list – Ben King, Jack Lukosius, Sam Flanders, Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson, Elijah Hollands, Mac Andrew and Bailey Humphrey – highlighting the type of elite young talent at the club's disposal.

In both Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey, it also secured another two players viewed by clubs as probable first-round picks during that five-year period through zone selections in Queensland and the Northern Territory respectively.

The Suns also have more top-20 picks beyond that collection of talent – such as Ben Ainsworth, Wil Powell and Brayden Fiorini – who are still maturing as footballers but remain either 25 years of age or younger.


But it's not just a developing list, it's also a list with proven performers. It currently has a midfielder in Touk Miller who is a dual All-Australian, a ruck in Jarrod Witts who was named in the 40-man squad last year, and a defender in Charlie Ballard who deserves to be in contention to make the cut this season.

Sam Collins is a best and fairest winner down back, Mabior Chol was a 44-goal forward last season, while Lachie Weller was rated highly enough by Gold Coast officials to warrant exchanging the No.2 pick for him in a trade six years ago.

The club's VFL program could also be a goldmine for finding diamonds in the rough. Ned Moyle is currently viewed by rival clubs among the best ruckmen playing in reserves competition, Caleb Graham is attracting interest as one of the VFL's best defenders despite signing through to 2026 last year, while Brodie McLaughlin (38 goals from 14 games) and Chris Burgess (37 goals from 13 games) are currently one-two in the VFL's goalkicking charts.


Gold Coast is also no longer a revolving door of talent, with players constantly coming and going. Yes, the Suns face a fight to retain Flanders and Jeremy Sharp – who are both uncontracted beyond this season – while the future of King, Ainsworth and Hollands will be up for discussion as they enter contract years next season, but a host of other important players have already been tied down long-term.

Humphrey is contracted through to 2028, Miller to 2027, Anderson to 2027, Lukosius to 2026 and Weller to 2026. Ballard, Rowell, Collins, Powell and Andrew are among those who have extended through to 2025.

That group should - and, with the right guidance from whoever comes next at Heritage Bank Stadium, will - be driving Gold Coast's improvement. As will the next batch of supremely talented Suns stars coming through their Academy this year.


Jed Walter, Ethan Read and Jake Rogers are all part of Gold Coast's Academy program and are draft eligible this year. All three played a starring role in the Allies' first ever national under-18s championships title won over the weekend, and all three are currently viewed by clubs as guaranteed first-round prospects later this year.

Walter, a 195cm key forward, has wowed clubs with his aerial dominance and his unique athleticism at ground level. His defensive running, his immense physicality and his goalkicking nous is why he is rated as the most likely challenger to Vic Country star Harley Reid for the mantle as the draft's No.1 pick.

Read is a mobile 202cm ruckman who marks above his head and is a prolific ball-winner, rated by clubs as a potential top-five selection, while Rogers is a crafty and powerful 171cm midfielder who is rocketing up draft boards following an exciting under-18s carnival. He could be in the mix as a top-12 pick by year's end.

Ethan Read in action during the 2023 U18 Championships match between Allies and Western Australia at Thebarton Oval, June 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Meanwhile, as recruiters travelled to Gold Coast last week for the under-16s carnival, the club's next wave of Academy stars was the talk of the trip. Beau Addinsall won the Division 2 MVP after racking up 24 disposals and five goals against Tasmania, while Zeke Uwland – the brother of current Suns player Bodhi – had a day out against Sydney to finish with 29 touches and three goals.

Their future emergence, and the established talent already enjoying Gold Coast's sunshine and beaches, is why the club felt change at the top was necessary. The Suns are ready to contend. Now to find the coach that can help them do that.