By round 10 of the 2014 season, the Suns’ record was seven wins and three losses, but at the same point this season it’s nine defeats and one win, not to mention their off-field indiscretions.
The fact is the AFL have splurged millions of dollars on the club but their current performance, attitude and state of disarray makes that outlay look a diabolical decision.
The promising start to 2014 was lauded as the coming of age for a club in its fourth season, a club that was built from the ground up with significant cash injections and player acquisition concessions.
Now in its fifth season, the hope of 2014 has all but disappeared and it looks as if the cushy handouts and liberal draft allowances have gone to waste.
The Suns’ membership base has dropped slightly since the first season (14,000 to 13,500) while average crowds from 2011 to 2014 also dropped (although they did rise from 2013 to 2014).
Should such modest numbers be a concern for the AFL given the Gold Coast was seen as their untapped frontier for football?
A piece written by a Fitzroy supporter in The Guardian passionately bemoans the loss of his club and calls for their reinstatement (at Brisbane’s expense).
The question it raises is an interesting one. Is it wrong that millions are poured into northern expansion ventures, when a historic club like Fitzroy was left to fold.
That the Suns have received so much support and given so little with a playing group in a state of crisis, only adds poignancy to Fitzroy’s plight.
A “pub team” with a “miserable culture”
On Melbourne radio, Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall said the Suns have a “miserable culture” while in the same broadcast, journalist Damien Barrett noted that when coach Rodney Eade and former Swans player Nick Malceski got to the club in late 2014, they were shocked with what they found.
Broadcaster Gerard Whateley also wrote that the club’s predicament “looks like blatant disobedience” from the players and that, “in the age of professionalism we have ourselves a pub team”.
“A group living large, happy to get thrashed and get pissed. Or in a novel twist, get pissed and then get thrashed.”
This season alone Harley Bennell, Brandon Matera, Trent McKenzie, Danny Stanley, Charlie Dixon and Jack Martin have been suspended because of drinking-related misdemeanours.
Bennell, Matera, McKenzie and Dixon are all considered future stars of the game so their transgressions are concerning, although it is certainly not the first time young sports stars have played up.
Rocket redemption for Suns
There are redeeming factors for the Gold Coast Suns and with all the support they’ve had they will likely one day produce a premiership.
Given the investment it would not look good for them to fail in the long run.
Eade is a no-nonsense coach and while his tough approach may be jarring while in its early stages, you’d hope these players will adjust and eventually benefit from it.
It has also been a torrid year for injuries at the club with a legnthy list that includes Gary Ablett, Jaegar O’Meara, Sam Day, Brandon Matera, Dion Prestia and David Swallow.
Those names represent a significant pool of talent sitting on the sidelines.
But as it stands the club looks to be on its knees and it is the first time they find themselves at a significant crossroads.
What the Suns have cost the AFL
– 2009 AFL invested $10 million in $130 million upgrade of Carrara
– 2010 AFL invested $24 million between Gold Coast and GWS
– 2011 AFL gave Gold Coast a $16.8 million ‘Funding Package’
– 2012 shared $19 million with GWS, got $500,000 from Club Future Fund and $2.1 million listed as ‘other’
– 2013 the Suns’ and GWS shared a $20.2 million handout
*** AFL reportedly paid 60 per cent of Karmichael Hunt’s $1 million a year salary from 2010-2014
– 2009 priority access to best 20 17-year-old Queensland players
– 2010 first five picks in Rookie Draft
– 2011 Draft picks 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 26, 43 and $1 million extra in salary cap
– 2012 $800,000 extra in salary cap
– 2013 $600,000 extra in salary cap
– 2014 $400,000 extra in salary cap
– 2015 operates like every other AFL club
What Western Bulldogs got during the same period:
– 2009 $1.7 million from AFL “special distribution fund”
– 2010 $1.7 million from AFL “special distribution fund”
– 2011 Not specified, although 2011 Financial Report says Bulldogs get 10.2 per cent of Club Future Fund Distribution between 2012-16 (the most, tied with North Melbourne)
– 2012 $2.9 million from Club Future Fund and $3.1 million labelled as ‘other’
– 2013 not listed in Annual Report