By JESS WEBSTER
An up-and-down season for the Gold Coast SUNS as Jacob Dawson shone bright and plenty of academy members stood tall when given their opportunity.
Here is Gold Coast’s season in review.
By the Numbers
Ladder position: 8th
Last year: 4th
NEAFL Player of the Year
Top 5 NEAFL MVP votes
57: Michael Barlow
32: Jacob Dawson
24: Jesse Lonergan
18: Will Brodie
17: Brayden Fiorini
Snapshot: It was an up-and-down season for the Gold Coast SUNS as they made a last-ditch effort to make the top six before running out of legs. At the halfway point of the year they sat eighth with a win-loss record of 4-5. By Round 16 the SUNS were in the top six after a stunning victory over Sydney at the SCG, but it soon all fell apart. The club’s AFL-listed players stocks dwindled, and the SUNS lost their final four matches of the home-and-away season.
Highlight: Gold Coast weren’t given much of a chance against ladder leaders Sydney in Round 16, but it was a last quarter blitz and two standout performances from Brayden Fiorini and Michael Barlow which inspired the SUNS to victory. Gold Coast booted six goals to three in the final term to snatch a 23-point win as Fiorini (42 disposals, 13 tackles and two goals) and Barlow (50 disposals) ran riot.
Lowlight: It what was a tale of their season, the following week after back-to-back wins against the GIANTS and Sydney, the SUNS let a golden opportunity slip against Brisbane at Metricon Stadium in Round 17. Needing a win to keep their place in the top six, Gold Coast had 111 more disposals than Brisbane, but lost the game by 12 points.
Star Power: First-year draftee Jacob Dawson showed his bright future on numerous occasions on 2018, with his impressive NEAFL performances earning the 18-year-old an AFL debut and a spot in the NEAFL Team of the Year, after averaging 30 disposals. 6.5 tackles six clearances per game. Despite only playing seven games, Barlow was unstoppable, averaging an incredible 43.3 disposals and eight clearances a game. From the academy stocks, Harry Simington and Brodie Foster earned NEAFL Rising Star nominations, and the likes of Emmanuel Baru and Fitzroy Greenwool provided plenty of highlights.
What’s Next: Gold Coast has made a number of list changes in a bid to rejuvenate the club, with Barlow, Josh Jaska, Max Spencer, Mackenzie Willis (delisted), Tom Lynch (free agency), and Matt Rosa (retired) leaving the club so far. A number of SUNS Academy members shone in the NEAFL throughout the year, with Dirk Koenen (AFL Combine), Caleb Graham and Lachlan McDonald (State Combine) and Ryan Gilmore (Rookie Me) invited to post-season AFL Draft combine testing sessions in their bid to earn a place on an AFL list.
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