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What could have been for the Gold Coast Suns?

Since the expansion teams have entered the competition, people have been sceptical about their legitimacy.

In the decade that both teams have been in the league, wasted opportunities is the first thing that comes to mind (yes, GWS made a grand final but look at what happened).

Several quality players have departed both expansion clubs, and gone on to have successful careers. A total of eight flags, six All-Australians and nine Best and Fairests have been accumulated by the departing players. It’s stats like those that make you question what would happen if Gold Coast and GWS had retained these players?

Obviously, players left their respective expansion club for a particular reason but let’s imagine that none of those parameters were present.

No homesickness, no chasing success, no list management farces. So, for this to work, there are a couple of things to consider:

– All drafted players by either Gold Coast or GWS will have their future outgoing trades reverted (e.g. Steven May to Melbourne)
– Pick swaps will not be included
– Free agent moved involving players leaving these clubs will be voided
– If picks are swapped, the players who were originally picked will still be selected, regardless of the club

Shambles wouldn’t even begin to describe Gold Coast’s list management since their genesis. Dayne Zorko for Matthew Warnock should have been an indication that this was going to be a disaster.

There was allowing Jack Martin to walk to the pre-season draft, the delisting of Jarryd Lyons with a year left on his contract, and who could forget the Hugh Greenwood fiasco last season?

Gold Coast could currently be a premiership contender if they didn’t make blunders on the trade table. The core four of Jarrod Witts, Matt Rowell, Touk Miller and Noah Anderson could have been bolstered by a future Brownlow Medallist, Steve May and Sam Collins could be the most formidable defensive duo in the competition, and the three-prong attack of Tom Lynch, Charlie Dixon and Membrey would have onlookers in awe.

Tom J Lynch

Tom Lynch with the Suns. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

But what exactly would this team look like, and how could have this happened?

B: Ballard May Weller
HB: Saad Collins Zorko
FO: Witts Rowell Miller
C: Ellis Oliver Anderson
HF: Lukosius Lynch Ainsworth
F: Membrey Dixon Rankine
INT: O’Meara Prestia Hickey Hall

To begin with, Tom Lynch requested to leave the club via free agency therefore, both players will slot back into the side without anything in return.

Also, as mentioned before, Jarryd Lyons and Hugh Greenwood walked without compensation meaning nothing has to be reverted. Adam Saad and Peter Wright also didn’t generate anything notable from their trades.

In the first trade blunder for the Suns, Zorko was zoned off by the club in 2011 before being involved in a three-way trade without playing a game.

Zorko would be traded to Brisbane for Matthew Warnock. The Lions skipper has gone on win five Best and Fairests, as well as receive an All-Australian blazer, whilst Warnock only managed 32 games with the Suns.

The following season Tom Hickey was traded to St Kilda for picks 13, 36 and 55, whist also sending picks 25 and 46. Although the majority of picks didn’t amount to anything, pick 46 was used to select Tim Membrey. Both Hickey and Membrey would be valuable assets to this side.

Dayne Zorko of the Lions in action

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

A three-team exchange between Gold Coast, Port Adelaide and Richmond surrounding Charlie Dixon has caused the Suns their biggest issues.

As this trade had implications on future trades, we’ll only focus on what Gold Coast missed out on. Yes, they missed out on prime Charlie Dixon but it’s what happened in a follow-up trade that would hurt the most.

Gold Coast traded pick 10 (received for Dixon) in a pick swap with Melbourne, where they received picks 6 (Callum Ah Chee), 29, and a future first (Will Brodie).

Although Melbourne didn’t use picks 10 and 43, it was pick 3 that they turned into premiership player Clayton Oliver.

Some food for thought from this continuous trade. The Bulldogs traded the pick for Sean Darcy in the Joel Hamling trade, Adelaide exchanged Charlie Cameron for the pick used on Darcy Fogarty, and Fremantle first possessed the Tim Kelly pick, which was eventually used in the infamous Gary Ablett trade back to Geelong. Speaking of the Ablett trade, pick 19 (Wil Powell) came the other way.

In 2016, Dion Prestia was traded to Richmond, a deal that predominantly had ramifications on two other trades. Gold Coast received pick 6 (Jack Scrimshaw), and a future second (Jack Petruccelle) from the Prestia trade, whilst Richmond gained pick 24 (Brandon Parfitt), which they used in the Caddy deal.

Jaeger O’Meara also departed the Suns that off-season, receiving the pick for Jack Bowes and Liam Ryan in the process. In a pick swap with West Coast the following year, Gold Coast on-traded the Petruccelle and Ryan picks, as well as throwing in the Oscar Allen pick for very minimal in return.

Finally, 2018 was a tumultuous off-season for Gold Coast as most prominently, Aaron Hall and Steven May requested trades, while Tom Lynch departed through free agency.

The Hall trade eventually got Tyson Stengle to Adelaide but didn’t support the Suns’ cause. But it was the Steven May deal that provided a win-win situation. May and Kade Kolodjashnij were sent to Melbourne for the Ben King pick.

Overall, this side would have taken a little bit of time to establish themselves as a force in the competition. With several players only having breakout seasons in the last year or two, there would have still been missing pieces for the Suns.

That being said, this line-up could have been a premiership contender in 2022. The emergence of that core four has helped to already propel them into finals contention. With the addition of Oliver, as well as the depth of O’Meara and Prestia, their midfield would be unstoppable.

Collins has continued to be consistent this season, in tandem with Ballard, whose skill is exponentially growing. Assisted by May, with Saad, Zorko and Hall running off half back, not much would get past this defence.

Last but not least, the tall forward trio of Lynch, Dixon and Membrey would instil fear into opposition defenders, whilst the improvement of Rankine and Ainsworth in 2022 would give them the arsenal to kick goals when needed.

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