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The comprehensive end-of-year review: Gold Coast Suns

This is the eighth of nineteen articles that are looking at the meta-results for both team and players, as collected from ELO-Following Football’s wide range of sources.
Presenting, the Gold Coast Suns.
Back in 2017
The team finished in 17th place with a home-and-away record of 6-16 with a percentage of 76 – and that was with Gary Ablett on the list!
The expectations for the team
Were pretty low: they’d been bleeding players from an outwardly questionable culture, and now the founding superstar had jumped ship as well. What’s more, with the Commonwealth Games usurping their home stadium for months on end, their home-and-away schedule was more of an ‘away-and-away’ schedule – they were playing ‘home’ games in Perth and in Shanghai for Heaven’s sake!
The projections for the Suns put them dead last. Here at Following Football, I jokingly placed them in nineteenth place, saying it was unlikely they would win more than one game with such a young team on such an absurd season-long road trip. Imagine my shock when they were 2-0!
Coming into the season, the players who were considered to be in the top 50 in the league by the AFLPA or The Roar included just two players – Tom Lynch (top 20) and Steven May – both of whom have left the Queensland coast for the 2019 season.
In 2018, the team
Had a surprising beginning: two wins in their first two games! They were 3-2 after five games – but it wasn’t until July 28th, when they upset Sydney, that they would win again.
They finished the season with a humiliating 142-40 loss to Geelong, ending a 4-18 season in 17th place again. With more devastating losses this season, their percentage dropped to 60.
It’s been…
Four years since the best season Gold Coast’s experienced: that magical 2014 season when it seemed the patience of the fledgeling club was going to be rewarded.
Happier days. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
After Round 16, the Suns were situated in eighth place, with a record of 9-6. That was the last time the Suns were in finals position in the last half of a season. They finished the year 10-12, in 12th place, two games out of September.
They’ve never seriously threatened again.
It’s been almost nine years since the Suns burst into existence, taking the expected wooden spoon that first year with three wins in both 2010 and 2011 (GWS finished behind them in their maiden year of 2012). They haven’t yet regressed to a three-win season since then. Not yet.
According to our patented “ELO-Following Football” rating system, the team started the season – do we have to do this? It’s depressing!
(Yes, you have to do it – you’ve done it for everyone else. For Heaven’s sake, you did it for Carlton!) Okay…
The Suns started the season with the lowest rating at 17.6 (average is 50). After two wins in two games, they were up to 28.4, although still rated last.
That was their high point.
From there, they floated down to 19.0 on their bye in Round 10, but when the bubble burst (see ‘forgettable games’, below) in Round 11, they quickly sank into single-digits at 3.2 after Round 12.
The Sydney victory boosted them back up to hit 18 momentarily, but they quickly lost those rating points in losses to Carlton and the Demons, and at season’s end sat at 6.9, above only Carlton’s near-record of 0.1 but far below everyone else (Fremantle is above 20; everyone else is above 30).
The other rating systems had a duel between Gold Coast and Carlton for the bottom spot almost all season long. FMI and Wooden Finger both had them in places 17 and 18 from Round 4 on. FMI had Gold Coast last; WF had Carlton last.
The Arc didn’t raise Brisbane out of their midst until their Round 9’s victory, but ended with the Suns at the bottom. US Footy uses a more volatile system that allowed for occasional intrusions by other teams (the Bulldogs were actually below Gold Coast for one round, after the Round 18 win in Sydney), but ended with the Suns a comfortable 17th as well.
Across the spectrum game-by-game expectations
Final record: 4-18.
Betting Line expectations: 2-20, favoured in Round 1 vs North (won) and Round 19 vs Carlton (lost).
ELO-Following Football forecasts: 1-21, favoured only in Round 19. game predictions: 3-19, picking the Suns in Rounds 1, 3, and 19.
The Roar predictions: 1-20-1, with an incredible split: eight in favour, 113 against. The only pro-Sun vote came against Carlton in R19, a game Gold Coast lost by 35.
“Pick-A-Winner” predictions: 3-19.
The Age forecasters: 2-20, with individual voters totalling 40-224. The Suns were favoured in Rounds 1 and 19.
BetEasy “CrowdBet” percentages: 3-19, correctly favoured in Round 1 and Round 5, and incorrectly for R19.
My own game-by-game predictions had them at 3-19. I also thought they would win in Round 1 (yes!), Round 3 (nooooo…), and Round 19 (in my defence, they had just defeated Sydney).
Now departed Steven May celebrates Gold Coast’s boilover. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
What was their best game of the season?
Round 18’s monumental upset of the Sydney Swans at the SCG, unquestionably. They were sailing along with an eleven-game losing streak, while the Swans were comfortably ensconced in the top eight, as always. Through the first quarter, when Sydney led 34 to 11, it was hard to see any change around the corner.
But suddenly, in the next two quarters, the previously-inept Suns shut the Swans out completely, allowing no goals, while the Suns scored 8.7 to take a 20-point lead into the fourth quarter.
That final period was a dance of celebration, as the Suns breezed to an 88-64 victory that shocked the footy world.
Which game would they most like to erase from memory?
For me, the two most likely candidates both involve the Geelong Cats. In Round 11, after three months of roaming and playing supposedly ‘home’ games at Optus, the Gabba, and Jiangwan Stadium, they were finally home at Metricon Stadium. The Suns would hopefully be shown to be a resurrected club under its new leader after a gauntlet no other team had ever suffered!
Alas, Geelong destroyed them, 121-36, scoring 17 goals to four. It really seems like that game destroyed the dreams of this team this year.
The final game, also a Geelong destruction to the tune of 102 points in Round 23, put an exclamation point on a season where the Suns lost 16 of their last 17 games.
If we were to speak of the club in as many words as they had wins in 2018
“Without the Little Master…”
Meta-player of the year results
1. Touk Miller – 117 points (96th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Second. Four Brownlow votes, third most on the club.
Last year’s result: 11th.
Notable games: One notable game in R5.
2. Alex Sexton – 95 points (122nd overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Fifth
Last year’s result: 15th.
Notable games: One prominent game, in R
3. David Swallow – 92 points (124th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Sixth.
Last year’s result: Eighth (140th overall).
Notable games: Notable games in R1 and R6.
4. Jarryd Lyons – 91 points (129th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: not in the top ten.
Last year’s result: Fifth (109th overall)
Notable games: One dominant game, in R2.
Jarryd Lyons of the Suns celebrates after scoring a goal. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
5. Tom J Lynch – 90 points (131st overall)
Best & Fairest finish: not in the top ten. Received five Brownlow votes, equal most on the club.
Last year’s result: Second (69th overall); first in 2016 and 10th overall.
Notable games: One dominant game, in R2.
5. Aaron Young – 90 points (131st overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Seventh.
Last year’s result: 21st at Port Adelaide.
Notable games: One dominant game (in R18), and one prominent game (in R1).
7. Jarrod Witts – 89 points (139th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Eighth.
Last year’s result: 12th.
Notable games: Two notable games, in R1 and R9.
8. Jarrod Harbrow – 82 points (155th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: FIRST, his first Best & Fairest medal. Received three Brownlow votes, equal fourth most on the club.
Last year’s result: Seventh (123rd overall)
Notable games: None.
9. Steven May – 78 points (168th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: not in top ten.
Last year’s result: Third (83rd overall)
Notable games: One prominent game, in R18.
10. Jack Martin – 66 points (194th overall)
Best & Fairest finish: Tenth.
Last year’s result: Sixth (120th overall)
Notable games: None.
Jack Martin of the Suns. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)
Gold Coast had one top 100 player and ten top 200 players in the 2018 ELO-FF meta-rankings. Oddly, while every other team had at least three players in the ELO-FF meta-rankings before Gold Coast’s first player showed up (Touk Miller, in 96th place), their next six guys pack the section between 122nd and 139th!
There is talent there – just not the top-end talent that they need to win!
Honourable mentions
Brayden Fiorini – 12th place (52 points). Received five Brownlow votes, equal most on the team. Had one notable game, in Round 5.
Nic Holman – 15th place (39 points). Ninth in Best & Fairest voting.
Rory Thomson – 13th place (47 points) Fourth in Best & Fairest voting.
Lachie Weller – 11th place (60 points). Third in Best & Fairest voting. Received three Brownlow votes, equal fourth on the club. One notable game, in Round 18.
Player movement during the trade period
In: Corey Ellis, George Horlin-Smith, Jack Hombsch, Anthony Miles. Four role players but nobody comparable to…
Gone: Captains Tom Lynch and Steven May, plus Aaron Hall, Kade Kolodjashnij, and Jack Scrimshaw. If you thought their list was thin last year…
Current list of draft picks: 2, 3, 6, 24, 29, and 80. If you’re back to playing the long game, that’s a nice way to start!
2019 List highlights
Backs: Callum Ah Chee, Pearce Hanley, Jarrod Harbrow, Jack Hombsch, Jesse Joyce, Sean Lemmens, Jack Leslie, Rory Thompson.
Midfielders: Charlie Ballard, Jack Bowes, Jack Martin, Anthony Miles, Touk Miller, David Swallow, Lachie Weller.
Ruckmen: Jarrod Witts.
Forwards: Ben Ainsworth, Chris Burgess, Sam Collins, Josh Corbett, Sam Day, Darcy McPherson, Will Powell, Alex Sexton, Peter Wright, Aaron Young.
Forecast for 2019
Seriously, what team do you see this list being favoured against? They’ll come up with a couple of upsets along the way, but they’ll be hard-pressed to even reach the four-win mark they managed in 2018.
If the Tigers are runaway favourites for the flag, the Suns are the runaway favourites for the wooden spoon. 18th place.