Suns missing guns for season restart
THE Gold Coast will be without two battle-hardened midfield warriors when they host West Coast on Saturday night but Suns coach Stuart Dew insists his on-ball division will still fight the good fight against the star-studded Eagles.
Co-captain David Swallow (suspension) and prize recruit Brandon Ellis (calf) will miss the Round 2 clash with West Coast at Metricon Stadium but the Gold Coast is set to welcome back the trio of Jarrod Harbrow, Pearce Hanley and Alex Sexton who missed the Round 1 loss to Port Adelaide.
The Gold Coast-based Eagles went through their paces on Wednesday just down the road from the Suns' Carrara headquarters and will start warm favourites against last year's wooden spooners with a large core of the 2018 premiership squad still intact.
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"How long have you got to rattle off the names (of the West Coast midfield)? But that's the beauty, our guys are excited by that,'' Dew said.
"The fact that a majority of those players are premiership midfielders a few years ago... Nic (Naitanui) coming back into the side giving them good use. I know Wittsy (co-captain Jarrod Witts) is keyed up for this battle. It's very rare in modern-day footy you get a one-on-one battle…but he's ready to go.
"Our mids are looking forward to that challenge and not just going out there to fall into line. We want to make sure we put it to them and make them work really hard and see if we can get on top in that battle.
"We think we've got a dangerous forward line that can test them but the midfield is going to have a big bearing on it as well.''
Dew said Ellis - who won two flags with Richmond before heading to the Suns during last year's trade period - had a niggling calf problem after coming back to training from the shutdown period and has been unable to do all the work required for selection.
"It hasn't progressed so he won't be able to do full training which effectively rubs him out for the weekend. We think if he can do a certain amount of running today we think he will play the week after but (he's) just a bit short given how his last couple of weeks have been,'' Dew said.
"After a while you forget about it (Swallow's suspension from Round 1 in March) but a couple of weeks ago it sunk in again. That was a disappointing one, the world changed in a blink of an eye after that game and it sort of snuck through on the Monday.''
Dew said 2019 draftee Sam Flanders was a chance of making his senior debut against the Eagles after being a standout at training. George Horlin-Smith will not take on the West Coast after injuring his foot in last Friday's intra-club practice match.
He said having both WA and SA clubs on the Gold Coast during the hub period would dispel negative perceptions about the Suns, their facilities and football's standing in the region.
Dew said discussions about his contract extension with the Suns had been put on the backburner during the COVID-19 lockdown and was happy to focus on improving on-field results to do his talking.
Dew: Home deck won't kick Suns' goals
A kind fixture list with three home matches in a row may present the perfect opportunity for Gold Coast to snap their 19-game AFL losing run.
The Suns return to action on June 13 when they face West Coast at Metricon Stadium before matches at the venue against Adelaide and Fremantle.
Coach Stuart Dew believes the Suns have a good chance find a win over the coming weeks on home soil, despite them last tasting victory in round four of 2019.
Dew has warned, however, it will be performance, not the venue, which will be the ultimate factor.
"We love playing at Metricon Stadium so it's a good opportunity for us," he said.
"We get to train here, we're lucky to have access to that as well.
"If we had the choice, it's great, but it doesn't make it any easier.
"Any team coming up here in any position think they can win, likewise when we end up travelling we'd like to think we can win there as well.
"It's nice to be able to play on our home deck but it doesn't kick the goals for you."
The COVID-19 enforced suspension of the 2020 season has allowed the Suns playing group to return to full fitness heading into the round two match against the Eagles.
While Izak Rankine may be given more time to gain full match fitness, the break has allowed teenage midfielder Wil Powell to recover from knee surgery and Charlie Ballard (shoulder) is also pushing to return.
Dew said the competition for spots was likely to keep him guessing about his preferred line-up until late next week.
"Getting close, there's a few up in the air, which is good," he said.
"It's good for us to have those decisions and it's good for the players to know that there's spots up for grabs, it just keeps that little bit of edge in training."