The Gold Coast Suns are bad (for an AFL team of skilled footballers). They have been last on my rankings since Round 21 of last season, after their also relatively bad cross-state rivals the Brisbane Lions improved.
The Suns started the 2018 season off well. They beat North Melbourne, and then comfortably beat Carlton in Victoria. Therefore, even though they were still ranked last after two rounds I felt a bit sheepish about it, and conceded that they looked ‘to have improved a fair bit in 2018’.
Nope, should have stuck to my guns on that one … (and to some extent I did.) From Round 3 onwards the Suns have been every bit the worst team in the league. Their average net margin since then, adjusted for estimated home ground advantage and opposition strength, has been an awful -40 points (see chart below). Good teams like West Coast (R4), Melbourne (R8), and Geelong (R11) have chewed them up, each of them winning by over 10 goals.
However, Gold Coast is still unlikely to finish in last place in 2018. The Suns have three wins in 2018 – their third being a close win against Brisbane – compared to Carlton and Brisbane with one win, and St. Kilda with one win and a draw. With home matches to come against Carlton, St. Kilda, and Brisbane, and three wins in the bank, ladder simulations usually have them out of last place. So the Suns should perhaps be thankful for their decent early-season form, assuming that they actually don’t want to finish last to get the number one draft pick (and the AFL does not give them a priority draft pick anyway).
The Suns are relatively bad at scoring, and relatively bad at getting themselves in a position to score, ranking down the bottom with Carlton in points and inside 50s per match. They have few ‘top-tier’ players (and they may lose one of them in forward Tom Lynch after this season) and, to say a similar thing, they have far too many players at the lower end for performance. Many of their top draft picks that should be maturing now either haven’t worked out, or – in the cases of Josh Caddy and Dion Prestia – have been helping Richmond to win the flag over the past year.
Though they may not finish last, things can mostly only get better for the Suns from here.
P.S. Depending on how things go I may not update the rankings for a few weeks. Fortunately, though this wasn’t the plan, this coincides with the ‘bye’ weeks in the AFL, so there’s less happening anyway. Just remember that if one team thumps another to give them about half a dozen ranking points.